THE handshake is commonly done upon meeting, greeting, parting, offering congratulations, expressing gratitude, or completing an agreement. In sports or other competitive activities, it is also done as a sign of good sportsmanship. Its purpose is to convey trust, balance, and equality.
That is the definition of a handshake according to Wikipedia. But the days when a man’s word and handshake were his bond are long gone.
In an era when we don’t say what we mean and mean not what we say, handshakes are just a simple act of decorum without much meaning. They shake hands today and go to war tomorrow.
But it still matters in sports, where there still is a sense of honour, respect, pride and dignity. A handshake is an acknowledgement of that mutual respect before hostilities begin in the fevered pitch of sporting endeavour.
That is why a simple handshake, the refusal of which, has shaken the sports world. That is the reason for the anger and bitter condemnation. That is why Liverpool striker Luis Suarez is being raked through the coals of outrage for his moronic behaviour at Old Trafford last Saturday.
What on earth was he thinking when he snubbed Patrice Evra’s extended hand of reconciliation during the pre-match ritual?
Why couldn’t he just shake Evra’s hand and move on? Provide a closure to the ugly racism row that has riven English football and tarnished the image of the institution that is Liverpool FC.
To make matters worse, he went back on his word, having promised the Liverpool hierarchy that he would shake hands with Evra. So now he is both a “racist and a liar”.
So, why didn’t he? Why the churlish behaviour so unbecoming of a player idolised by a legion of fans the world over?
Sure, Suarez may feel aggrieved that he had been wrongly judged – and he may be right by his own perceptions and values.
What we do know is that Suarez had been found guilty of racially abusing Evra during a Premier League game and was banned for eight matches. He had served the suspension, albeit with ill grace encouraged by manager Kenny Dalglish’s misplaced support, and was expected to have learnt from that experience.
The boy from the slums of Montevideo may be uncultured and unschooled but he has been a professional in Europe long enough to know right from wrong. That such uncouth, petulant behaviour is unworthy of the player, club and game.
Footballers are not paid obscene wages to throw tantrums and behave abominably. We have enough of politicians doing that in everyday life. We don’t need our sports idols following suit.
Suarez could have saved himself and Dalglish all that grief had he swallowed his pride and done the right thing – simply shook hands with Evra.
Just imagine what that would have done for his image and Liverpool FC?
With Old Trafford filled to the brim, and millions more tuning in to watch the game, Suarez could have put a dignified end to the saga.
Had he done that, each and everyone (except the die-hard Man Utd supporters) would have forgiven him and hailed him for being man enough to own up to his blunder.
We all make mistakes but it takes courage to own up to it. Suarez had the chance to repair the damage for the greater good of his club and sport but he blew it.
Suarez did offer an apology after the game, saying how sorry he was and how he regretted not having shaken hands with Evra.
But it was all too late. The damage to his character had been done. And a written statement, after the fact, is hardly an act of sincere regret. It was, in all likelihood forced on the hot-headed recalcitrant who has put Liverpool in a very bad light.
I have been a Liverpool supporter since the early 70s. I know what the club means to the many of us who hold it dear to our hearts. To see one man tarnish that image because of his intransigence and stupidity is too much to take.
I am all for second chances. Suarez had his on Saturday – but spurned it. Now, Liverpool have a second chance too – to do the right thing to redeem the club’s pride, honour, integrity and reputation, by selling him. The message must be clear – such abhorrent behaviour will not be tolerated. The club and the game are bigger than any individual, no matter how gifted.
Above all else, Liverpool must give credence to their famous tagline “You Will Never Walk Alone”, the true meaning of which is the inclusiveness it embodies.
There is no place for bigotry and racism in that great Red world.
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