Why the Handshake Matters

Terry & Ferdinand missing the point of the handshake in football

We have become used to footballers making headlines for the wrong reasons, now it’s the turn of the referee. With players’ abusing referees and linesmen during every game, should we be surprised that a top flight referee has been accused of abusing players in return? Where does this leave the FA’s Respect Campaign, designed to improve behaviour at Grassroots? An initiative that should and could have a really positive influence on everyone involved in the game.

One issue that promotes the “Respect” agenda is the pre match handshake. Hardly controversial, yet some ex-professional players and pundits believe it’s unnecessary. I don’t agree. This small act of mutual respect demonstrates the spirit in which a match is to be played. It sends a clear message to young players watching about the nature and purpose of sport. The refusal to shake hands with an opponent before kick-off puts a players personal considerations above the greater good of the game.

If a professional player feels strongly about the behaviour or character of an opponent a refusal to play against them would show greater integrity. That this pre match formality is viewed by many in the professional game as unnecessary, suggests some have lost sight of footballs wider responsibilities. Respecting opponents and officials in sport teaches young players social skills that are essential in later life. Professional footballers are powerful role models and shaking hands before a game sets a great example.

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  1. Rob Dickinson July 26, 2013 at 12:27 pm

    I’m not sure if this is just a Canadian thing, or just the way our grassroots program does it for our club, but we make sure players shake hands after every match, and it is our duty as coaches to make sure that each player shakes hands and congratulates each opponent. As the coach of my team, I take this one step further, as I have a team captain and two assistant captains, I ensure that the three of them thank the officials and shake the hands of the officials after each match, no matter how good or subpar the performance of the officials is.

  2. Jonathan Andrews August 14, 2013 at 6:36 pm

    For me the answer is simple – the handshake should be after the match.