There was something deeply unsettling about the events at Loftus Road during the weekend that imminently preceded kick-off between both QPR and Chelsea. And here’s a clue – it wasn’t one man’s rejection of a simple, everyday gesture.
Not that all eyes were looking anywhere but the pre-match, Premier League formalities; formalities that include the obligatory display of goodwill between two opposing teams.
But it wasn’t the row of footballers, shuffling along awkwardly as they indulged in a pre-match handshake that little looked like they really gave a monkeys about, that sank the heart. More the row of photographers, cameramen and associated members of the British media, situated crowingly inside the famous old ground, baying for a glimpse at the outcome.
As when you strip away the cameras, the hours of panel show discussion and several feet of column inches dedicated to whether Anton Ferdinand was going to shake the hand of John Terry before a game of Premier League football, it’s all very simple, really.
Ferdinand refused to participate in what is simply a traditional gesture, or ritual, if you will. What does a handshake actually represent? Trust? Respect? Sincerity?
If Anton Ferdinand doesn’t feel an ounce of any of these traits for John Terry, than why would he want to shake his hand?
The supposed pact between Anton and his brother Rio of clamoring to reject both Terry and his Chelsea teammate Ashley Cole’s hand, has led to some very negative press indeed. But to delve into the intricacies of why they won’t shake hands or get on with it, as some people have analyzed, is missing the point. Because there isn’t a point to analyze at all. Certainly not anywhere near to the extent that it has been and unquestionably not to the point where it overshadows a football match.
Football loves a soap opera and the added spice that the odd grudge and sideshow can add to a Premier League match has always and will always be given a subsequent level of attention. But the attention given to this latest round of handshake-based hysteria is nothing more than cheap media titillation. The British press have taken a quaint molehill and turned into an Everest-sized peak for all to marvel at. And yet again, as always, it’s the game itself that is left to suffer.
Of course, the preceding back-story to the Anton Ferdinand/John Terry saga was a story that belonged on the more prominent side of the news agenda. The captain of the England national football team had been accused of racially abusing the Queens Park Rangers defender and whatever way you frame it, such an allegation demanded to be discussed within the public forum.
But the realties were seemingly always going to be different. Regardless of the verdict District Judge Howard Riddle delivered, it wasn’t going to change Ferdinand’s version of events. Because although the trial was newsworthy, the aftermath most certainly isn’t. And the way in which the matter re-exploded during the past week, absolutely beggars belief.
A handshake is, as already mentioned, a display of trust and respect – not some ceremonial pomp devised by the Premier League and its commercial sponsors. What’s the point in doing it, if players are just simply robotically shaking each other’s hands for the sake of it? It doesn’t mean anything in that case.
Many have noted that Ferdinand embarrassed himself on Saturday but the point is, that opinion, like any other, is subjective. You could equally argue that publically shaking the hand of a man in which Ferdinand openly has no respect, no trust for and who seemingly is still in staunch disagreement with Judge Riddle’s findings, would have been equally as embarrassing. Again, it’s a point of subjectivity.
But the media furor has fuelled the debacle into the realms of the ridiculous. What is really the headline here?
“Man refuses to shake hand of other man he doesn’t respect.”
What is newsworthy about that? Why should that dictate that a game of football is kicked into the shadows in exchange for weeks of petty debate over the merits of why he isn’t doing it. If we really want to simply get on with it, then we wouldn’t have given the handshake any exposure whatsoever.
You can argue that it doesn’t set a particularly good example of sportsmanship and that ultimately; people should let bygones be bygones. And in some respects, that is correct. Premier League footballers, regardless of how they feel about it, do have a public sense of responsibility – especially to the legions of adorning younger fans.
But surely the law of averages dictate that out of masses of respecting footballers that ply their trade in this league, one that is often something a goldfish bowl in itself, some of them are going to have a problem with each other.
If they wish not to shake each other’s hand, that’s it. It is their prerogative. It’s nothing to shout about and if people really want to get on with the game, then they’d stop putting these sort of events up in lights. Focus on the football and get on with it. The notion that the handshake represents some kind of hallmark for how football should be played is surely absolute hyperbole – did Anton Ferdinand go out and try and end anyone’s career or play the game unprofessionally? No. The meaningless hype surrounding the handshake is just as bad as the media storm that surrounded it in the first place.
People will bestow their own issues on the Ferdinand/Terry issues but from a public perspective, it’s time to draw a line under this – for good. If either of the Ferdinand brothers come against Terry again this season, which is nigh on guaranteed, then there’s every chance that a shun of a handshake will happen again. But this time, the media just have to let it lie. Because the truth is, it just isn’t worth the airtime.
How do you feel about the media’s obsessive agenda with the pre-match handshake? Worth the attention or has it driven you up the wall? Let me know how you see it on Twitter: follow @samuel_antrobus and bat me your views.