Jose Mourinho and Mark Hughes’ failure to shake hands at Stoke said more about both than if they’d just gone ahead.
Hughes and Mourinho both have a history of avoiding handshakes, yet getting supremely narked if others avoid shaking their hand. If they do the avoiding it’s fine by them, but boy are they offended if managers refuse to accept their hand. Mourinho’s spats with Arsène Wenger are legendary.
Mourinho complained at Stoke that Hughes shoved him on the touchline and swore at him to get out of his technical area. At full-time, Mourinho shook hands with Stoke’s backroom staff and walked off, avoiding a miffed Hughes.
Later, Hughes claimed that he went to the Manchester United dressing room and Mourinho still wouldn’t shake his hand. It’s all very petty.
Shaking hands doesn’t bear much scrutiny as a physical act. Who was the first person to decide that putting their hand in another person’s hand and moving both up and down at the same for a few moments remotely has any meaning? Why did anyone agree it was a good idea?
Handshaking is as silly an accepted norm as clapping. Who on earth decided to show appreciation for something by hitting their hands together? And who agreed? A sea lion? You might as well flap your arms like a bird. Perhaps it’s about making noise.
Handshakes have come to be a simple token greeting of respect and acknowledgement. An expected social norm. The are customary and a courtesy in football, as in life. Handshakes don’t necessarily mean that you like the other person and nor do they have to.
Like saying ‘please’ or ‘thank you’, getting the handshake done, as basic social manners, makes for an easier life than refraining and it avoids rebukes for not complying.
Which is certainly the case in football. You can break someone’s leg or smash them in the face with your boot, while others debate if it’s a red card or not, but don’t you dare not shake my hand afterwards.
The awkward truth of a handshake after a football match is that it carries the connotation that you are accepting and condoning what has passed. Hence, why shake the hand of someone who’s spent 90 minutes annoying, disrespecting or humiliating you? If you feel that someone has treated you like rubbish, a handshake could look like an agreement or acceptance of that behaviour.
But be sensible, a handshake is a brief moment in time, not a lifelong declaration of love. It’s not a cuckolding of what has passed, or a waiver of all behaviour. Just get it done and move on. We should all be able to shake on that.