The Sportsbag

Sports opinions and discussion. For lovers of sport.

Let’s Shake On It

(Courtesy of resident sports-lover, Terence Lattanzio)

We see it so often and we don’t even bat an eyelid.

Football players who spend four quarters of brutality throwing everything they have at their opponents to be in front at the final siren. Tennis players coming together after long, hard fought sets of which they had been plotting their opposition’s demise the entire time. Soccer players exchanging jerseys after an intense 90 minutes on the field. Even boxers who touch gloves before every round and hug it out after going 12 rounds of beating each other’s heads in.

It’s called SPORTSMANSHIP. And sadly, we have recently been exposed to some athletes who simply didn’t get the memo.

Luis Suarez and Tomas Berdych recently highlighted an issue that we, as sports lovers, sometimes take for granted.

Suarez’s refusal to shake Patrice Evra’s hand was the last of a string of controversies that started when Suarez’s Liverpool hosted Evra’s Manchester United, back in October 2011. A heated clash on the football pitch resulted in Suarez being banned for 8 matches for racially abusing Evra. It seemed ironic that Suarez’s return to the Liverpool’s line-up would be for the Old Trafford fixture, in a match that was always going to make headlines.

The incident at Anfield sparked a war-of-words between the two clubs, yet managers and representatives from respective teams stood by their players throughout the turbulent time. The issue generated public debate and, unfortunately had tabloids around the world talking about racism in sport once again. But as Patrice Evra stuck out his tentative olive-branch hand last weekend, in a gesture of goodwill, the Uruguayan’s decision to snub the Frenchman revealed a real lack of character, most unfamiliar in a sporting context.

Czech Republic and World Tennis’ number 7 in the world, Tomas Berdych was recently involved in a similar incident following his fourth round match against Spain’s Nicolas Almagro at this year’s Australian Tennis Open. A clutch rally was ended when Almagro rocketed a forehand directly at Berdych at the net, and immediately the Spaniard offered a hand of apology.

However, the big Czech refused to shake hands at the net after defeating Almagro in four sets, claiming “this is not the way how tennis is.” Berdych was subsequently booed off the court after his farcical display of sportsmanship.

Both incident’s highlight a worrying issue in world sport, however they are certainly not the first athletes who have misplaced their manners on game day. This unsightly act of disrespect can most famously be traced back to the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

The Olympics were given to Berlin prior to the Nazis coming into power. Hitler decided that the Olympics would be the perfect stage for Nazi Germany to demonstrate the ‘superiority’ of their Aryan race, and propaganda ran rife throughout the build up to Berlin.

At a time where Olympians were still amateur sportsmen, Nazi Germany allowed their athletes to train full time in the lead up to the summer Olympics, believing that their eventual dominance in the sporting arena would emphasise the logic behind their anti-Semitic policies.

However, the star of the 1936 Olympics was African American Jesse Owens, who won gold for the 100m, 200m, long jump and 4 x 100m.

Astonishingly, Adolph Hitler refused to place the gold medals around Owen’s neck at the podium, and went even further explaining “The Americans should be ashamed of themselves, letting Negroes win their medals for them. I shall not shake hands with this Negro. Do you really think that I will allow myself to be photographed shaking hands with a Negro?”

Now, I don’t want to draw comparisons between Suarez, Berdych and Nazi Germany. So think of that as a brief history of unsportsman-like behaviour in the highest order.

But how hard is it, really? It’s common goodwill. A simple shake of hands to acknowledge each other’s presence in the sporting arena. Two opposing sides are not mortal enemies. They generally do not wish each other harm or unwell.

So come on guys, your young, impressionable fans are watching, your pay cheques will be in the mail and the sun will certainly still rise in the morning, so… let’s shake on it.


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