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Anton Ferdinand, John Terry and the handshake heard around the world

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Does getting paid an absurd amount of money remove your capacity to respect other people? Does your ability to accept differences decrease in direct proportion to your increase in privilege?

Those were amongst the questions I was pondering last Saturday. A day I spent watching a series of lectures and films about the Arab revolutions. 

I listened to extraordinary people talking about the things that they had endured in an attempt to be respected. Respected as a citizen, respected as a person of differing faith, respected as a person of differing race.

Throughout this, as moving and thought-provoking as it was, I was still checking in on the football. It was a Saturday after all and whilst I’m interested in and care deeply about many things it doesn’t sway me from my love of football and my desire to know what is happening every minute of every match, before, during and after.

No handshake for Terry

One of the things I was looking forward to most with some, apparently misplaced, hope and a little trepidation was the preamble to the west London derby. A preamble which would include Anton Ferdinand and John Terry (Ashley Cole is too much of another story to get into here) confronting one another, shaking hands and in doing so finishing with and moving on from this whole unpleasant affair.

The teams came out to gorgeous sunshine and a loud Loftus Road crowd. They lined up ready for the pre-match protocols.  The handshakes began and two hands did not meet.

What a surprise.

Enough of my mock incredulity. This particular incident is definitely a complex one, far from black and white (although I do believe that is one of the issues). In spite of its complexity, it seems to me, part of it is actually fairly easy to solve.

Pre-match handshake: Where is the respect?

The pre-match handshake is a failed experiment and should be scrapped.

Please don’t misunderstand me, I think that genuine respect for one another is extremely important, empty, stage-managed gestures however certainly aren’t. 

If Anton Ferdinand and John Terry felt able to put this issue to bed and had decided that shaking one another’s hands was appropriate and had done it of their own volition then great, it might actually have meant something.  But to force them into it and for them then not to do it after all makes the whole thing a rather pointless charade. Which it is. Come on, let’s face it.

Very few of the people that play football seem able to observe the pre-match handshake (sounds absurd doesn’t it?). In fact it is now seen as yet another opportunity to disrespect the opposing players. A complete subversion of its original intention.

Now whether Ferdinand is the victim in this or Terry is the victim is immaterial. In this instance I’m quite sure that everyone loses. When there is so little respect for anyone nobody comes out of it looking good.

Elsewhere, as the Queens Park Rangers vs Chelsea match was reaching its underwhelming conclusion, I was being shown a film about the uprising in Tunisia. The most moving and memorable image from the film was of a man who, in protest at the way he and his fellow Tunisians were being treated, was on hunger strike and had sown together his lips.

That is what respect means to some people.

I wish some Premier League footballers had seen it. Perhaps if they did they might finally wake up.

You can follow the author of this article at @peterstickney.

Comments (4)

  1. Refusing to shake hands with ur fellow player in a game of that magnitude is evil. It promote discord among fans breed hatred. What is the used of carrying grudges that took place since last season to this time. I think Aton has a big heart to accomodate grudges, i wonder if any part is left for love and affection for others. And for other players who decided to support evil by refusing to shake hands and at least promote peace, my advice to them is that the world is a very small place, it will happen to them someday i hope they will remember today’s date. If John Terry is found guilty, he should be punish but if not it should be sweep under the carpet. Aton should knw that we in Africa have face the worst of it yet we are still smilling. Samuel Eto face it in spain yet he did not act foolishly. English FA should punish Aton and park for refusing handshake because it has damage the image of the game in England, and also punish Terry if found guilty of any racial abuse. That my verdict!

  2. Why is it failed? As Gary Neville said yesterday (and I am not a great fan of his) since these hanshakes were introduced in excess of 400000 have taken place and only a handfull have been failures.

  3. I fail to understand, Anwatim, why you think that Anton Ferdinand is in the wrong for refusing to shake the hand of a man he has no respect for. Don’t forget that there is still an FA hearing into the case against John Terry, and had Ferdinand shaken his hand, you can be sure that the highly paid lawyers and counsel employed by Terry would have had a field day on Monday when the case is heard. “They shook hands! All friends! No case to answer!” would be the cry. Meanwhile, Terry is off scotfree despite hs repeated admission that he used the words in question, and Anton Ferdinand is still the victim, but of an offence that goes unpunished. Also, a dangerous precedent is set, whereby racial slurs are seen as unpunishable as long as you cover your mouth when you yell them and have lawyers and team mates that are happy to twist the truth.

  4. Refusing to shake hands isn’t much of a big deal, its the intents(or mindset) behind the action(or inaction) that matters. These people are role models to thousands of people. Are they teaching them to be unforgiving. Let’s learn to put our grudges aside and act professional. Our actions are precedences on which some other people that look up to us might base their actions on.