Hughes and Mourinho are latest pair to make football all about hands

By Jonathan White Source:Global Times Published: 2017/9/10 23:03:39

Football, they say, is a funny old game and Jose Mourinho has done little to disprove that this weekend. The Manchester United manager refused to shake his Stoke City counterpart's hand after his side labored to a 2-2 draw at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday evening.

The Portuguese was nonplussed ­after failing to get a result in the Potteries, but the reason for the non-handshake was that he and Mark Hughes had a falling-out during the game, and the Welshman apparently told him to "f**k off" after a set-to in the technical area. It is not the first time that Hughes has had such an issue.

Hughes is a man who loves a handshake - he is what people regard as "old school" in that respect - but he has a history with opposition managers snubbing his hand. Among that number are his Stoke City predecessor Tony Pulis, his Manchester City successor Roberto Mancini, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger and former Spurs boss Martin Jol. 

It would seem odd enough if it was a one-off, or even if each of them was, but Hughes and Pulis have refused to shake hands on two occasions now. It's like Hughes sees himself as the arbiter of football morality and he settles it with his hands - one he often proffers to his direct counterpart's refusal.  

Handshakes are becoming a big deal in the game, certainly in the Premier League. It's getting to the point where they are even overshadowing the game. If it is not a post-match non-happening then it is pre-match, and in some cases the buildup to the meeting of hands is even bigger than the meeting of teams. 

There can be a number of reasons for that. Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra were at the center of a rather unsavory racial incident during a game between Manchester United and Liverpool at Anfield. The Uruguayan refused the Frenchman's handshake when the teams met again at Old Trafford.  

It was racial abuse that was also at the heart of the John Terry and Anton Ferdinand incident. The QPR defender was reportedly the victim of some intolerant language from the then Chelsea captain, and in the inconclusive and unsatisfactory fallout Anton and Park Ji-sung  - the South Korean former teammate of Anton's brother Rio - left Terry hanging.  

Terry is the Hughes of players when it comes to handshakes. The center half was also left high and dry by former teammate Wayne Bridge when the pair met before Chelsea faced Bridge's new club Manchester City in the aftermath of the revelation that Terry had slept with Bridge's girlfriend.

It is not always negative, though. The current Spurs squad is famed for their rather elaborate handshakes and they look like they are having the time of their life while doing so. Searching "cool handshakes in football" offers 1.5 million hits on Google - many of them down to Delle Alli, Eric Dier and Son Heung-min at Tottenham, no doubt. But for a game that should be played with the feet - it is in the sport's name after all - there is an unseemly preoccupation with what goes on with its participants' hands.

The author is a Shanghai-based freelance writer.


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