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Over the past decade or so, professional soccer leagues have made it a requirement that prior to a games kickoff, the two teams are to walk out together, address the fans in a line, and then shake hands. I always thought it was too theatrical and senseless, really. 

If you look back into the late 1990’s and even early 2000’s, teams never lined up and shook hands.  Instead, they would warm-up in their respective ends of the field and then begin the game.  It was only in colossal games, i.e., world cup final, that the teams would walk out together, line up, shake hands and etc.  It was a way of addressing the importance of such an occasion.

I question the relevance of this in the modern game.  I mean, sure, it shows respect for the game, the players and fans, but is it really necessary?  Majority of the players shake hands like it’s a race; they put their head down and just get it over with.  You get the impression that it’s a dreadful task.  Many players don’t even have the decency, or manners, to take a little more time and shake hands with respect while looking the person in the eye.  Useless.

Why is this done before the game?  Before the game you’re enemies, not friends.  Before the game you’re concentrating on how to beat the opposing team/player to a pulp, now you have to shake hands?  Am I the only one who see’s this as backwards? Soon we’re going to have soccer players hugging before games and cracking jokes like NBA players.  If I was a coach of an NBA team and I saw one of my players cracking jokes and exchanging hugs with players on the other team before the game, I’d be pissed.  But I digress…

Shaking hands is meant for the end of a match; the end of a battle.  After both teams have executed their game plan and done all they could to win, then you should walk over to the opponent and show your respect for a valiant effort.  Then you offer a handshake as a sign of respect.

None of this really bothered me until the recent media craze around John Terry and Anton Ferdinand of the English Premier League.  The last time these two players met, Terry was alleged to have made a racist slur at Ferdinand.  The teams were to meet again and everyone was wondering whether Ferdinand would shake Terry’s hand or not.  It became so popular that there were bets you could place on professional betting sites whether you believe the two would shake hands or not.  Every soccer story in Europe had this on the front page. Terry and Ferdinand were spared an awkward moment after the league allowed the team handshake to be cancelled.

Who cares?  I’m not ignoring the fact that there could have been a racial slur involved, that’s a very serious issue…but a separate issue.  What I’m referring to is the handshake before the game.  Just drop it entirely and get on with the game.  Shake hands at the end of the game like you’re supposed to.


  • John Lovgrove says:

    This handshake ritual is a hangover idea from the disgraced Blatter/Platini era, FIFA trying to make football all PC and nice so as to appeal to todays “snowflake” society. The players already hug and share jokes before games, haven’t you noticed them when they are lining up in the tunnel before entering the field of play, particularly the non British players, it shows they are starting games with completely the wrong attitude. Handshakes are for after the game only, real fans wan to see a competitive game not a love in.

  • CA says:

    It’s an unofficial way of agreeing to ‘contract to compete’ – essentially, saying each team agrees to play by the rules of the game, if it isn’t done, it implies the teams aren’t willing to agree to the rules of the game. This basically gives referees the ability to hand out red/yellow cards and penalties, as these are given when players aren’t following the rules of the game, when they had publicly agreed to do so prior to the game.

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