Football's Most Famous Handshakes That Didn't Happen
The weekend saw Chelsea boss Rafael Benitez claim that Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson ignored his handshake attempt prior to their clubs’ FA Cup quarter-final clash.
The pair have had a strained relationship dating back to when Benitez was Liverpool manager. Fact.
The handshake and football have an odd relationship. Football is one of the only sports to actually have a pre-match handshake—the New Zealand rugby team is known to perform a tribal war cry and dance in hope to terrify their opponent so much it affects their performance. Which is quite far away from a polite handshake and a “how do you do?”
So what were the other handshakes that never were that, although they didn't grab a hand, they did grab the headlines?
6. Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra
This is the godfather of all missed handshakes.
In the same way you can trace every music album back to the influence of “Pet Sounds” by The Beach Boys, you can trace every missed handshake back to this one.
The incident stemmed from a match between Liverpool and Manchester United when Luis Suarez allegedly racially abused Patrice Evra. Suarez was later found guilty by the FA and given an eight-match ban.
Suarez claims he didn’t, Evra claims he did. It’s hard to say for certain what actually did happen...
...But I can tell you what didn’t happen. A handshake at their next meeting in February.
In the pre-match ritual for the return leg at Old Trafford, Patrice Evra seemingly tried his hardest to shake Suarez’s handshake, but Suarez wasn’t having any of it and tried to discreetly avoid the handshake request.
But Evra wanted to shake Suarez’s hand so badly, he even ruined David De Gea’s handshake with Suarez to try and get some hand-on-hand action. But still nothing.
Rio Ferdinand also avoided a handshake with Suarez and, I’m not going to lie, this isn’t the last time the Ferdinand family will be mentioned in this article.
But like every good story, it has a happy ending. De Gea forgave Evra for botching his handshake with Suarez and Evra and Suarez did shake hands at their next meeting in September 2012. And Luis Suarez never did anything controversial again. The end.
5. Arsene Wenger and Alan Pardew
November 2006 saw one of the most violent non-handshakes in recorded history.
This one was so ugly that two stewards and a fourth official had to get involved. And a policeman watched it. Frightening stuff.
After Alan Pardew’s West Ham United scored a late winner against Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal, the large jacketed one was not happy in the slightest. When Padrew offered Wenger his hand in shake, Wenger refused and kept his arms crossed.
Nothing can be considered more of a handshake snub than someone saying “I’d rather touch both of my own armpits than your hand.”
4. Mark Hughes and Everyone
Mark Hughes has as much luck with handshakes as Captain Hook had with actual hands.
It all started in August 2009 when Hughes was Manchester City manager. He tried shaking Sam Allardyce’s hand and, as the shake was about to commence, Hughes seemingly became suddenly conscious that he might fall through a trap door and decided to quickly check the ground below him, turning his back on Big Sam.
In December 2009, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger refused to shake hands with Hughes because he didn’t “behave properly” on the touchline.
An incident in September 2010 saw two snubbed handshakes between Tony Pulis and Mark Hughes. Then-Fulham boss Hughes refused to shake Stoke City’s Pulis’ hand after a bad tackle from a Stoke player (I know, I’m as shocked as you are) on Moussa Dembele.
Then when they met again in December 2010 Pulis got his sweet, sweet handshake revenge when he snubbed Hughes' hand. The brutal tit-for-tat handshake warfare between the two men ended there before anyone else got hurt.
In February 2011, when Hughes was still at Fulham, he faced his old club Manchester City and his replacement as their manager, Roberto Mancini.
Mancini seemingly only falsely offered his hand to Hughes and aborted the handshake at the last minute.
Hughes took this as a sign of disrespect and said afterwards: (h/t Metro)
“I am old-fashioned, I always think you should offer your hand.”
You say “always,” Mark, but evidence suggests you don’t practice what you preach.
For example in January 2012, Hughes was QPR manager, following his departure from Fulham in the summer. Hughes faced his old club, and when again faced with his replacement, Martin Jol, they shook hands and all went well...
...Or not, suddenly drama occurred when Jol got carried away with the handshake and decided to try and upgrade it to a hug. Hughes, disgusted to his very core at Jol’s familiarity, batted the hand going in for an embrace away like a pick-pocket was trying to steal his wallet from his jacket pocket.
In conclusion, if you ever meet Mark Hughes, shake his hand. Heaven knows you’ll be the only the person who has.
3. John Terry/Ashley Cole and Anton Ferdinand/Park Ji Sung
We have some tag team handshake action.
The team of Queens Park Rangers’ Anton Ferdinand and Park Ji Sung refused to shake the hands of Chelsea's John Terry and Ashley Cole in September 2012 following the accusation that John Terry had racially abused Ferdinand in a match between the two sides in October 2011.
Ashley Cole gave evidence that found John Terry acquitted from a racism charge in a magistrates court case against him, but he was later found guilty by an FA tribunal.
QPR’s then captain, Park Ji Sung, didn’t shake hands with Terry either, showing traits of a good captain standing up for his teammate. No doubt forming a bond between Park and Ferdinand that would last a lifetime...
...that would be if Park wasn’t stripped of the captaincy and Anton Ferdinand shipped off to Turkey on loan shortly after.
But there was also more mass non-handshaking action around this issue, in April 2012, QPR and Chelsea met in the FA Cup but the pre-match handshakes for everyone was cancelled due to the then-pending legal situation.
Eleven men not shaking another eleven men’s hands. It doesn’t get less handshakier than that, folks.
2. John Terry and Wayne Bridge
Oh hello, John Terry, thanks for sticking with us for a second slide!
Before Patrice Evra had even heard of Luis Suarez there was the John Terry, Wayne Bridge and Vanessa Perroncel love triangle. It had everything, love, betrayal, football and, most importantly, missed handshakes.
In February 2010 Wayne Bridge’s Manchester City met John Terry’s Chelsea for the first time since the scandal broke about Terry having an affair with his ex-teammate's girlfriend, Vanessa Perroncel.
John Terry may have had an affair with Bridge’s girlfriend, Bridge may have even ended his England career because of it, but Bridge got the last laugh.
He refused to shake John Terry’s hand, in front of all the world. The Chelsea captain was left, for all to see, with nothing touching his hand, besides the cold, unforgiving West London oxygen.
I imagine Terry would probably say that Bridge had “mugged him off good and proper.”
1. Steven Gerrard and Nameless Child
If you ever meet Steven Gerrard and he looks tired, like he hasn’t slept very well, this is the reason why. This moment is keeping him up at night.
In 2006 Chelsea met Liverpool and, in the tunnel prior to the game, Steven Gerrard MBE led his team and noticed a blue-haired child who was that day’s Chelsea mascot. The mascot held out his tiny hand for the Liverpool captain to shake.
Gerrard, with a sense of duty, offered out his hand to the child. While his allegiances may not be with Liverpool FC, he was still an impressionable young person and his hand needed to be shaken.
If he didn’t, what would happen? The mascot's innocence would be shattered. The picture he created in his head that footballers were great people, role models, would be gone forever. Everything he’s known would be revealed as a lie.
Then what? Would he get in with a bad crowd? Crime? Drugs? Yes, probably.
So Gerrard went to grab the child’s hand. To not only shake it but to, doubtlessly, save the boy’s life.
Then the child moved his hand away, put his thumb on his nose and waggled his fingers. Mocking not just Gerrard, but everything he stands for.
It was an evil trick. Gerrard had fallen for this evil mastermind’s plan hook, line and sinker.
Gerrard tried to save face by giving him two playful slaps across the face. The first one was playful, like saying “oh you scamp.”
The second one, Gerrard couldn’t hold back his anger and probably had a little too much force behind it. But it’s understandable, he’d just had the promise of a handshake snatched away from him at the last minute. Steven Gerrard was frustrated. It must have felt like a DJ had refused to change a song for him.
But like all classic missed handshakes, John Terry wasn’t far away.
One can only imagine the carnage that would occur if this Nameless Child ever met Mark Hughes.