FIFA panel calls for more handshakes

A FIFA expert panel wants players to exchange more handshakes on the field to improve the game’s image and sportsmanship.

Franz Beckenbauer, chairman of the Task Force Football 2014, said after a meeting Wednesday that it recommended players should meet opponents in the center circle after matches.

”At full time I think it would be a better image … when leaving the pitch together and not refusing a handshake,” Beckenbauer said. ”They should be role models and should behave like role models.”

The German great later added that the sport must prevent future incidents such as Liverpool striker Luis Suarez’s recent refusal to shake the hand of Manchester United defender Patrice Evra before a match.

”This is the first time I ever saw it myself. I think we simply have to stop it,” he said in comments translated from German.

Beckenbauer advised against disciplining players for falling short of FIFA’s fair play code, saying the governing body should first remind players and coaches of their responsibilities.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter created the task force to suggest ways of improving the quality and image of football at the next World Cup, after suggesting too many matches lacked excitement at the 2010 event in South Africa.

Blatter became embroiled in a separate furor about handshakes last November, following reports that Chelsea and England defender John Terry had aimed racial insults at an opponent. Terry denies the allegations and will stand trial in July.

Blatter later apologized for suggesting that on-field confrontations should be settled by a handshake after the match.

Beckenbauer said he believed a FIFA campaign promoting fair play would be ”more intense during the 2014 (World Cup) in Brazil.”

The panel, which includes former playing greats Cafu of Brazil and Kalusha Bwalya, now president of Zambia’s football body, gave its advice after watching footage of bad-tempered, high-profile matches.

They included the 2010 World Cup final between the Netherlands and Spain; a Champions League semifinal between Real Madrid and Barcelona last April; and last season’s Copa Libertadores final between Santos and Penarol.

Bwalya noted that coaches and substitutes also were criticized for their reactions to events on the field.

”Officials on the bench are to first people to get upset,” said Bwalya, whose national team won the African Cup of Nations this month to widespread public acclaim.

Beckenbauer said encouraging handshakes and sportsmanship were ”small things that could improve the image of football.”

He suggested that teams could leave the field together at halftime and emerge for the second period together, as well as gather in the center circle after the final whistle.

”That is what we used to do when I was at school,” Beckenbauer said. ”I believe one should leave the pitch the same way one has entered the pitch.”