So in the most unsurprising turn of events since Ricky Hatton declared that he was going to come back to boxing, Anton Ferdinand refused to shake John Terry's hand, and both he and Ashley Cole declined also to take part in the pre match formality as QPR hosted Chelsea today in the first meeting since Terry's court case where he was found not guilty of racially abusing Ferdinand in the corresponding fixture last year.
The FA could have avoided the inevitable uproar, and outpouring of self-righteous rage by removing the need for a handshake before this match citing special circumstances, which of course, with an FA inquiry still ongoing investigating John Terry's behaviour in the fixture in October of last year, there clearly is. Instead, the handshake was retained on the grounds that it is an essential component of the 'Respect' campaign.
Next week, Liverpool will face Manchester United at Anfield - and despite both Brendan Rodgers and Alex Ferguson's coordinated pleas to their own supports to put an end to shameful chants about Munich and Hillsborough - the spirit of commonality will only last until the moment that Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra come head to head in the lineups. A million flashbulbs will go off to see if two people who genuinely can't stand each other slap palms for a split second in the presence of a cauldron of titillated onlookers, akin to those who stop and stare at car accidents behind police barriers.
It's not as if by now the FA can claim to be caught cold. Wayne Bridge and several of his Man City teammates refused to shake the ever-controversial John Terry's hand before a match in 2010 after the revelations about John Terry's affair with Bridge's fiancé. When Patrice Evra and Luis Suarez were last on the field together, no handshake occurred - whether Evra actually offered his hand and whether Suarez made enough of an effort to shake it has been the study of a million slow motion replays and argued about through two different shades of red tinted sunglasses without conclusive evidence either way. But regardless of whose fault it was, the incendiary impact it had on the game was palpable within 5 minutes, as Evra flew in for a contestable ball with Suarez and actually injured Rio Ferdinand in the process.
Undoubtedly a handshake is a sign of respect - it says, 'I value you' and 'we are both professionals' but by enforcing it as a mandatory element of the pre-match fanfare you remove any element of respect and turn it entirely into a ritualistic meaningless box-ticking exercise. Compare for example, how stoic, bland and mechanical the lining up of players en masse to shake their opponents hands are to the tantalising glimpses we sometimes get of the banter and genuine camaraderie in the tunnels before games. Yaya Toure and Charlie Adam are two players who often find themselves in disciplinary trouble - but they shared a grin and an embrace before the Stoke versus Manchester City game. Of course; they had to do it all over again 2 minutes later in front of the cameras, game faces on.
If we strip the value out of an action, it becomes meaningless. If you don't respect someone, you shouldn't shake their hand. Handshakes at the end of the game rather than the start would be a far more meaningful exercise as it takes a bigger man to say 'well done' at the end of a game you have just lost, and it also takes a big man to say 'thank you' and not rub defeat into a vanquished foe's face. Unfortunately, the inevitable consequence of this would be that some hotter headed players would refuse handshakes if they felt an injustice that might arise from poor officiating rather than the behaviour of their opponent; and the whole procedure would turn into another media sideshow. One thing football doesn't need is more unsavoury gossip and soap opera histrionics, particularly on the back of the swell of public adulation towards the mild mannered and professional Olympians. It seems unfortunate, but as our footballers can't seem to behave as professionals, a ritualised handshake seems counter-productive in a sport increasingly devoid of self-respect.786987