Time to Shake off a Pointless Ritual; the Pathetic Pantomime between Luis Su[beta]rez and Patrice Evra Highlighted Why It Is Time to Shake off One of the Premier League's Rituals, Writes Stuart Rayner

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BEATEN by a brilliant penalty by Zambia's Mweene Kennedy, Boubacar Barry came off his line and shook the hand of his fellow goalkeeper.

It was a nice moment in a tense shoot-out to decide an African Cup of Nations final Barry's Ivory Coast were overwhelming favourites to win, but did not.

It was spontaneous and heartfelt. Barry did not react the same way when any of the other seven players who beat him in Sunday's shoot-out did so, but he recognised the skill and courage Mweene had shown as someone, like him, whose day job is to keep the ball out of the net, that he could put it in it.

On a weekend dominated by nonhandshakes, it was a feel-good moment. Unfortunately, Luis Su[sz]rez's petulance had already ensured football would come out of it with its reputation tainted a fraction.

Su[sz]rez's refusal to shake Patrice Evra's hand - as he had promised beforehand he would - reinforced the view that top modern footballers are spoilt brats. Actually, plenty are perfectly nice, wellrounded human beings.

But mud like that sticks to all of them - not just those who refuse to shake hands like Su[sz]rez (and potentially Harry Redknapp's next England captain, Rio Ferdinand), or who carry on at the final whistle without an ounce of class a la Evra.

Just as disappointingly, it totally distracted attention from one of the Premier League's showpiece games, between Manchester United and Liverpool. Like the time two years ago when John Terry's Chelsea played Wayne Bridge's Manchester City the focus was all on a few seconds of ceremonials, rather than 90 minutes of football.

With any luck, next season ritual prematch handshakes might be quietly dropped from the Premier League. It was dispensed with before Chelsea's FA Cup third-round tie at Queens Park Rangers, presumably because Anton Ferdinand had indicated he would not be pressing the flesh with Terry.

Like Su[sz]rez, Terry stands accused of a racial slur towards the ex-Sunderland defender, something the former England captain vigorously denies.

The problem with this outbreak of non-shaking is that once one highprofile footballer does it, no end of people incapable of thinking for themselves start copying. If that sounds harsh, look at the evidence. Is it any coincidence that since the incidents involving Terry and Su[sz]rez there has been a spate of mindless racism polluting the terraces and the Twittersphere? Hours after Su[sz]rez made such an idiot of himself, Aston Villa's young mascot refused the outstretched hand of his Manchester City counterpart as he worked his way down the line of players and officials. …


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