Arsene Wenger has finally done it. No, I’m not talking about beating Jose Mourinho for the first-ever time after 14 games.
Instead, I’m referring to Wenger ignoring the Chelsea manager’s attempts to shake hands after Arsenal beat the Blues 1-0 in the FA Community Shield at Wembley.
As he now just loves (yeah, right) to do when he loses, Mourinho made sure he was seen shaking hands with every Arsenal player who picked up a winner’s medal as they trotted off the Wembley steps.
Thankfully, Wenger saw him coming and rather suavely avoided Mourinho’s attempt to grab the spotlight, I mean his hand. BBC Sport’s David Ornstein tweeted this video of Wenger’s commendable dismissal:
In the process, Wenger refused to be part of Mourinho’s false bonhomie. He shunned what is becoming easily the most cringeworthy and irritatingly phoney ritual in sports: the Mourinho congratulatory palm squeeze in defeat.
Seriously, are there really people out there gullible enough to be fooled by this mock sincerity? If there are, here’s hoping they don’t own a driver’s license or are in any position of authority.
How can anybody be hoodwinked by such an obvious ploy to stay in the spotlight and deflect criticism after a defeat? But these people are probably out there, like it or not. That’s a thought to prompt plenty of sleepless nights.
Wenger wasn’t only right to refuse engaging in Mourinho’s gerrymandered ritual designed to make himself look good. In fact, he deserves a medal for voting against it.
Not only did he stick to his principles and emerge as the only honest manager at Wembley, Wenger also stopped modern football’s ultimate villain from fitting himself for a Halo.
If you believe in Mourinho’s sickly sweet showmanship in defeat, I’ve got a used car to sell you. Just ask yourself this, does any other manager do it?
How about this, is it even necessary to shake hands with every member of the opposition bar the kit man’s nephew, just to show how magnanimous you are?
While we’re on the subject, what’s the deal with making a show of how sporting you are anyway?
In Mourinho’s case, it speaks to the very real insecurity and need to be loved, alarmingly obvious in a man so successful. It’s not enough that he often hoovers up trophies as though he suddenly expects them to go out of fashion, albeit with the aid of ready-made squads and huge spending power.
Mourinho still acts as though he wants universal praise, worship-like acknowledgement for his achievements, his expertise and his character. Would any other manager have taken a fan chant as much to heart as the Chelsea gaffer did when Arsenal fans chanted “boring, boring Chelsea” last season?
But Mourinho’s not just a great manager (the greatest if you ask him). He’s also a swell guy and a true ambassador of all that is right and fair.
What do you mean, you don’t believe him?
Well, you don’t have to. He explained it to everybody who’d listen when he publicly took Wenger to task for refusing his hand at Wembley, per the Daily Mirror‘s Adrian Kajumba:
I was doing what the status of my club and my status as a manager I think I have to do for myself and the club which is to be there for the winners, to wait for them in a point that you only miss me if you want to miss me.
Every Arsenal player came in my direction which was the easiest thing to do because I was just there and if other people didn’t come in my direction that is not a problem, not a story and not the end of the world and I gave no more problem on that.
I did my job, the job that my club deserves me to do and the status as a manager when I lose a charity shield or any trophy.
If you fall for any of that, may I interest you in a second used car? It’s as good as the first one, honest.
Living up to your status as a manager and a club. Not sure those are good words from the man who once gouged Tito Vilanova in the eye and then hid behind his assistants and players while blowing kisses to the now late Barcelona manager.
They certainly aren’t the right words from the man who has made a trademark of over-the-top, boorish celebrations when he wins. Exactly what status do you honour when you sprint onto the opposition pitch to rile the home fans the way Mourinho did when his Inter Milan team knocked Barca out of the UEFA Champions League in 2010?
The type of sportsmanship Mourinho claims he is showing by shaking hands with every member of the winning team including the tea lady, is hardly obvious in statements like “voyeur” and “specialist in failure.”
Those are just two of the less-than flattering (to put it mildly) monikers Mourinho has given Wenger over the years. Would you shake hands with the man who called you those things, would you indulge his attempts to hog the spotlight?
If you did, you’d be pretty disingenuous. So would the handshake.
Wenger wasn’t prepared to be so fake at Wembley, a feeling he made clear, per Sky Sports:
I shook a few hands today after the game, but there’s nothing special there.
I believe in a job where you have to respect people and respect everybody.
By rightly refusing to ignore his deeply acrimonious history with Mourinho, Wenger exposed a great cynical hypocrisy at the heart of English football. Yes, you guessed it, it’s the post-match handshake.
Two managers clasping hands no matter what has gone for at least the near-two hours previous is supposed to cure all ills. It’s the symbol that’s supposed to say no matter what names have been called, what cynical tactics have been employed, or how you behaved in the dugout, one handshake will magic it all away.
Feel like barfing yet? Been there, done that.
A handshake means nothing if it’s just empty theatre. If it’s merely routine because it’s expected, then honestly, what is the point?
There’s no point at all if a handshake follows as many rounds of vicious backbiting as Mourinho and Wenger have engaged in. The latter refused to be forced into taking part in something meaningless, something for the cameras, a gesture only forced to make Mourinho the story.
Well, you don’t fool me, Jose. I continue to hope you don’t fool right-thinking people anywhere.
For once, the story isn’t about you, try as you might to make it otherwise. It will take more than making a mountain out of a hand-shaped molehill to mask the fact Chelsea’s squad isn’t very good without striker Diego Costa, the man of 102 hamstring injuries.
Instead, this is a story about rejecting the false platitudes and phoney cheers modern football’s inherent cynicism has embraced.
Mourinho threw his loser’s medal into the crowd at Wembley where a young Arsenal fan snaffled it.
Somebody ought to pin a different medal on Wenger for ignoring that vacuous handshake.