Terry and Ferdinand handshake pantomime trivialises the real issue

A stormy west London derby between Chelsea and QPR finished 0-0 but provided before the match the latest chapter in the unsavoury saga that seems as if it will never end
By Greg Stobart at Loftus Road

The soap opera began last October and has rumbled on for so long that it has morphed into a deeply unsavoury pantomime, with tabloid villains and unedifying audience participation at every turn.

When did it become about the trivial matter of whether or not two grown men would shake hands in front of the cameras?

Was the original issue not a little more serious? Something along the lines of allegations that the England captain racially abused an opposing player?

All of the talk before, during and after QPR's clash with Chelsea at Loftus Road on Saturday was about whether Anton Ferdinand would shake hands with John Terry and Ashley Cole.

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The Premier League insisted that the pre-match show of mutual 'respect' should go ahead, having cancelled the procedure in the previous meeting between the sides.

Yet all it achieved was to take the focus away from the football as Ferdinand declined to acknowledge Terry and Cole, while Park Ji-Sung also ignored the Chelsea captain.

Terry was found not guilty of using a racial slur against the Rs centre-back in July, with Cole as a character witness, but remains the subject of a Football Association investigation and denies the charges, over which he will appear before the governing body on September 24.

The FA showed how seriously it takes the matter of racism with the hefty eight-match ban handed to Liverpool striker Luis Suarez last year.

So it beggars belief, then, that English football's authorities can let such a matter become so trivialised.

Is football so tribal in 2012 that no-one can see the bigger picture anymore?

Here in west London, we had whoops of delight from QPR fans when Ferdinand snubbed Terry, the former labelled a liar by the Chelsea fans and the latter constantly barracked by home supporters.

Fans in Chelsea shirts gathered outside Westminster Magistrate's Court on the day that Terry arrived for the verdict of his trial; Liverpool players wore shirts in support of Suarez after he had been found guilty by the FA.

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This is a serious issue, far beyond football rivalries or pointless handshakes.

A banner on the pitch as the QPR and Chelsea players emerged from the tunnel on Saturday read: "get on with the game" and that is exactly what they should have done.

Mark Hughes was clearly exasperated by talking about handshakes by the time that he arrived for his post-match press conference, calling for the meaningless ritual to be scrapped.

"I don't want to get misty eyes about the old days but that's how we used to to things [shake hands at the end of the game]," he said. "I've got the utmost respect for the respect campaign, and it has done fantastic work, but this element of it causes more problems than it solves."

The QPR boss would have been sure to put that view to the Premier League in the week leading up the the match as he fielded questions from all angles about Ferdinand.

All the handshake achieved was to add another element of farce to a story that feels like it will never end.

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