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'Handbags at ten paces', sometimes shortened just to 'handbags', is a comic reference to a confrontation which is histrionic but which doesn't involve physical violence. Such confrontations are also called handbag situations.Why do footballers wear handbags at ten paces?
The handbags at ten paces and handbags at dawn versions began to be used in the 1980s to describe confrontations between players in football matches. Professional footballers know they will be sent off if they hit another player, so emotion has to be expressed via posturing, facial grimacing and verbal abuse.