Ahh, the good old French.  From public disputes between players and coaches, to the sending home of self-centered stars, right to the resignation of the soccer federations president, this years French squad was nothing short of a walking time bomb waiting to implode.  With one of the most disappointing and controversial World Cup campaigns in French History, you couldn’t help but think you’d seen it all…right?  Wrong.

In what was surely the last game as coach of the French national team for Raymond Domenech vs. South Africa in the 2010 World Cup, you would think he would make every effort to end on a high note and leave with some dignity…you would think. In one of the most disgusting displays of disrespect and pathetic naivety, Domenech refused to shake the hand of the South African coach — who just beat him — and dug an even deeper whole for the French, for himself as a coach and as a man.

In the last game of their painful World Cup showing, France played South Africa.  The game ended with the unlikely South Africans victorious 2-1 over an obviously dejected French side.  Once any game finishes, as respect would have it, players and coaches of all sports  exchange pleasantries and congratulate each other on a game well played.  As this game finished, the South African coach (a Brazilian) approached Domenech to shake hands, but Domenech refused:

Embarrassing?  Stupid?  Arrogant?   These are the first words that come to mind when I watch Domenech’s reaction.  As you will hear the commentators suggest in the video, it seems as though Domenech is mad about an incident that occurred on the field — most likely the red card that was given to one of Domenech’s players (Yoann Gourcouff) for what seemed to be an unfair ruling.  So is that reason enough to not shake a coach’s hand?

As a player, the ultimate insult would be someone spitting in your face or cursing a family member.  As a coach, refusing to shake hands is without a doubt the equivalent.  Often times we will see children react this way.  They act sporadically when they lose and refuse to shake hands or begin to sob and cry: this is what we call the sore-loser syndrome.  I would argue that this reaction was nothing short of childish and that of a sore-loser.  In fact we can forgive children when they show these emotions because they don’t know any better…can the same be said for Domenech, he didn’t know any better?  I don’t think so.  Especially when you are representing your country on the biggest stage in the world, you shake that man’s hand.

Like with any situation in soccer (and life), it’s important to take a step back from any event in order to assess it from afar and ask yourself  “what can I learn from this?”

Show Respect.

You don’t have to like me, but you must respect me.  Even if Domenech had ample reason to be mad at the South African coach, to not shake his hand is discrediting years or blood, sweat and tears the South African coach has put into the preparation of his team for what was surely a major achievement for them in the defeat of a soccer powerhouse.  Similarly, whether you the reader are a coach, player or fan, never forget to show respect to fellow coaches, players and fans.  Much like you, they have put a lot of time and effort to be where they are.  Failing to appreciate and respect the people around you is failing to respect the sport and people.  Even in moments of utter chaos, rage and frustration, always remember that you will do more for yourself, for your opponent and for the game if you can shake hands, look each other in the eye and say: cheers, good game.  Always be the bigger person and do the right thing.

After the storm passes and there is calm, Domenech will realize that his actions were not only foolish, but they were hurtful.  And so it is my message to you fellow readers: don’t make the mistake of creating a situation you will regret later on.  Soccer is not a game of winners and loser, or who is better and who isn’t; soccer is a game of love, respect and passion.  Never forget to play like a child, but have the respect of a 90 year-old man.

Joga Bonito!