English Premier League: Handshakes and hypocrisy

Published: February 20, 2012

If the English Premier League can be defined by one contest, it is the one between the two most illustrious and successful clubs, Manchester United and Liverpool FC. That is one fixture (in fact two, if you count home and away fixtures) every season that never fails to entertain you for reasons varying from sheer brilliance to absolute controversial.

After the racism controversy surrounding Patrice Evra and Luis Suarez where Suarez was found guilty not based on any “evidence” but on a “balance of probabilities” (which I believe has to be the flimsiest way of deciding on one’s guilt especially in a case as sensitive as this), all the attention before this match was on the handshake between Suarez and Evra. It didn’t exactly go to plan, but didn’t come as a shock either, as Suarez decided to keep walking without shaking Evra’s hand. And that set the tone, not for the match, but for the aggressive tussles during the half-time interval and a somewhat out-of-place victory dance at the end of the match.

After the match there was a huge media outcry on the handshake snub and the bandwagon was joined by the Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson, chief of PFA (Professional Footballers Association) Gordon Taylor and former MP George Galloway.

However, this whole reaction brought forward some glaring hypocrisies.

In November 2011, a few days after the Negro-gate scandal at Anfield, Sepp Blatter (head of FIFA) made a statement that all misunderstandings and bad-blood between players during a match should be brushed off with a simple hand-shake after the match. What happens on the pitch should stay and get settled on the pitch. The Football Association (FA) and the media, fresh from a racism controversy and probably still seething from losing out on Football World Cup hosting, launched a scathing attack on Sepp Blatter, condemning him for his appalling “handshake” remark and even going further by demanding his resignation.

Now, guess who was adamant to end the Evra-Suarez controversy with a handshake before the Manchester United vs Liverpool match? I find it extremely hypocritical that FA and the media absolutely ridiculed Sepp Blatter for his “handshake” remark, and then scrapped the “handshake” routine in the Chelsea vs QPR match that involved, the accused England captain, John Terry and are now blaming Suarez for not going through a handshake and burying the matter with it. Isn’t that what Blatter meant in first place?

Also joining in the FA’s hypocrisy band-wagon was Professional Footballers Association (PFA) Chief Gordon Taylor, who claimed to be “sick in the stomach” by Suarez’s snub to the handshake that should have brought an end to the whole racism episode. This is of course coming from the same person who is desperately trying to support the current (care-taker) manager for the English national team Stuart Pearce, who racially abused Paul Ince during a match between Manchester United and Nottingham Forest in 1994. Back then even Mr Taylor tried to cover for him by claiming that “Stuart regrets what he said. It was in the heat of the moment.”

No nice handshakes back then?

Then, after the match, Manchester United’s manager, Alex Ferguson decided to add his two cents by calling Suarez a disgrace and a player that Liverpool FC should get rid of immediately. Just like Mr Ferguson got rid of Peter Schmeichel for racially abusing Arsenal player or Eric Cantona for launching a Kung-Fu kick at a spectator or Rio Ferdinand for missing a drugs test or Wayne Rooney for his swearing into a cameraas well as holding the club for ransom and Ryan Giggs who was busy taking out injunction after injunction in a desperate effort to avoid being named and shamed for his “role model” antics off the field.

But one statement that proved to be the icing on the cake came from an ex-member of British parliament who claimed that “if Dalglish doesn’t sack Luis Suarez, the home secretary should deport him.” 

This is the same politician who once had this to say about Saddam Hussein. So in a nutshell, deporting a sportsman for not shaking hands but keep people like Abu Qatada who has admitted links with al Qaeda and has openly made hate-sermons threatening the world with violence.

Sadly, all these hypocrisies have been very conveniently ignored in this whole handshake episode, perhaps because at the end of the day it’s not the hypocrisies that sell, it’s the controversies!


Read more by Ahmed here. Follow him @Ahmed_Saleem.

Ahmed Saleem

Ahmed Saleem

A Brunel University graduate working in Lancashire, UK. He blogs at salloos.wordpress.com/ and tweets @Ahmed_Saleem

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.