England manager Gareth Southgate believes the message behind taking the knee before kick-off is being lost after supporters booed the gesture ahead of Wednesday’s friendly win over Austria.
After renditions of ‘Football’s Coming Home’ and the anthems, there were audible cheers – which seemed to come from a full end at the Riverside Stadium in Middlesbrough – as the players got on their knees, the first time an England side had beaten the anti- racism gesture in front of a home crowd.
It was soon drowned out by cheers from the nearly 7,000 crowd – but Southgate and his players hope the immediate response won’t follow the team into the upcoming European Championships.
Audible cheers were heard as players from England and Austria got on their knees for the friendly match
Jude Bellingham and Tyrone Mings kneel for Wednesday night kickoff
England have a diverse roster that reflects society, including match winner Bukayo Saka, Tyrone Mings, Jude Bellingham, Jesse Lingard, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Jadon Sancho.
Southgate believed that the knee booing – which has since been hit hard by Piers Morgan – could be taken as a ‘critique’ of those players and that the reason behind the attitude has been misunderstood.
“I did hear it,” he said when asked about the immediate reaction of a large number of fans.
“It’s not something on behalf of our black players that I wanted to hear because it feels like it’s criticizing them.
“I think we have a situation where some people seem to think it’s a political position that they don’t agree with.
“That’s not why the players do it. We support each other.’
Gareth Southgate claims the reason behind taking the knee has been misunderstood
Taking the knee has started since football resumed after the Covid pandemic last June, when the Black Lives Matter movement took off following the death of George Floyd.
England international Alexander-Arnold called for “meaningful change” to fight racism at the time when he declared in a powerful message on Twitter last June that the “system is broken”.
Last June against Everton, the Liverpool fullback also decided to wear football boots with the message Black Lives Matter, which he auctioned after the game to raise money for the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
He said at the time: ‘It can no longer be just our feet where we express ourselves. We need to use our profile, the platforms we have and the spotlight that shines on us to say it’s time for meaningful change. The system is broken, it’s stacked against parts of our society and we all have a responsibility to fix it.”
Premier League players also wore the BLM slogan on their shirts after the 2019-20 campaign restarted, following global protests in support of the movement sparked by Floyd’s death in the United States while he was in the United States last May. police detention.
But at the start of the 2020-21 season, the Premier League distanced itself from Black Lives Matter by replacing the logo with No Room for Racism on shirts.
Jack Grealish slammed after players took the knee, saying ‘we don’t want it in football’
The BLM movement in the UK had been criticized for accusations of anti-Semitism and calls for police punishment.
The Premier League issued a statement late last season saying it “does not support any political organization or movement, nor does it support any group that incites violence or condones illegal activities.”
The statement added: “We are aware of the risk posed by groups trying to hijack popular causes and campaigns to promote their own political views. These actions are totally undesirable and rejected by the Premier League and all other professional football bodies, and they underline the importance of our sport to take a very clear stand against prejudice.”
While the BLM slogans were removed, taking the knee continued throughout the 2020-21 season.
But since fans started returning to stadiums after being kept out due to the Covid pandemic, players had encountered resistance, with some supporters booing before the games for taking the knee.
Fans at Wembley ahead of the FA Cup final between Chelsea and Leicester were booed before applause drowned out the protests. A similar sentiment was heard at Old Trafford ahead of Manchester United’s game against Fulham on May 18.
Piers Morgan slammed the ‘so-called England fans’ who booed the team on Wednesday
And this was followed by a similar incident at Riverside Stadium ahead of England’s pre-season friendly against Austria for the European Championship.
On Wednesday the initial mockery was overtaken by a tidal wave of support and, while other stadiums across England have witnessed similar reactions since the return of fans, Southgate wants to see the meaning behind the message reaffirmed.
“I was happy that the majority of the crowd drowned it out, but we can’t deny that it happened,” he added.
“I think the most important thing for our players to know is that all their teammates, all the staff are fully behind us.
“I think most people get it, some people don’t quite get the message and I assume we’re seeing that on some football pitches right now.”
Piers Morgan lashed out at the fans at Riverside Stadium, who decided to spot the players, claiming the England squad should leave the next time they booed.
This supporter said they were ‘glad that fans booed the players’ on Wednesday
Morgan wrote on Twitter on Thursday morning: “It’s disgusting to hear so many alleged England fans loudly booing a team with many black players for getting on their knees to protest racial inequality, then loudly cheering on one of those black players.” when he scored.
“The next time these idiots captivate, the players should run away.”
In addition, midfielder Jack Grealish – who played a key role in the England winning goal that Saka eventually converted – said none of the players were happy about it.
“I think that will be discussed in the coming days,” he said air sports. “It’s something we don’t want in football in general and especially in our games.
However, some football fans on social media said they were “glad” that the players were being booed for going over the knee.
One wrote: ‘Glad fans booed. Months without a live game to go to and if you do, you need to get a bunch of hypocritical millionaires to their knees beforehand. For God’s sake, continue the game.’
Another said: ‘Nobody wants a lecture before the competition. Get up and carry on.’
Fans at Wembley ahead of the FA Cup final knocked Chelsea and Leicester players to their knees
England players are expected to continue kneeling during the European Championship this summer – one of the most watched events in world football.
UEFA has strict rules regarding political statements but has allowed English players to kneel during the Nations League and are unlikely to change their stance during the tournament.
Crystal Palace star Wilfried Zaha stated in February this year that he would stop taking the knee because he thought the protest was no longer enough.
“I feel like kneeling is humiliating,” he told the FT Business of Football conference at the time. “When I was growing up, my parents just let me know that I should just be proud to be black no matter what, and I just think we should hold out.
“I think the meaning behind the whole thing is going to be something that we just do now. That is not enough. I’m not going for the knee.’
Wilfried Zaha has stopped taking the knee because he believes the protest is no longer enough