On Sunday, as England prepared to take on Croatia at Wembley Stadium, the host team took a knee on the field as an anti-racism gesture after pleading with fans to respect the move. The players were loudly booed despite their efforts.
The incident took place just prior to the European Championship game. The booing could be heard over some fans applauding England’s players. The Croatian team had previously decided to not take a knee.
“Everybody should cheer for England,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson declared, though he did not comment on taking a knee on the field or whether that was an acceptable statement at a game.
Even though many fans view taking a knee as a political gesture, the English Football Association is denying it. They claim the statement is an important one and should be respected by everyone.
“They are doing this as a mechanism of peacefully protesting against discrimination, injustice, and inequality,” the organization said in a statement. “This is personally important to the players and the values the team collectively represents. This gesture of unity and fighting against inequality can be traced back as far as the 18th century.”
(Video Source: World Football)
“It is not new, and English football has made it very clear that it does not view this as being aligned to a political organization or ideology. There can be no doubt as to why the players are taking the knee and what it represents in a footballing context,” they proclaimed. “We encourage those that oppose this action to reflect on the message you are sending to the players you are supporting. Please respect their wishes and remember that we should all be united in the fight to tackle discrimination. Together. They will do their best for you. Please do your best for them.”
A Union of European Football Associations spokesman confirmed prior to the game that the governing body cannot punish any nation whose supporters react to the gesture.
“UEFA has a zero-tolerance against racism and any player who wants to demand equality amongst human beings by taking the knee will be allowed to do so,” he added. “We urge spectators to show respect for teams and players taking the knee.”
“UEFA will not take disciplinary action against the national association for their fans’ reaction to this initiative as there are no legal grounds to do so in the current competition and disciplinary regulations and to do so would be to punish a national association whose players have taken a stand against racism,” he concluded.
— cricketsoccer (@cricketsoccer) June 13, 2021
The manager of the England national team Gareth Southgate declared that booing feels like an attack on the black players in the squad. His sentiments appear to align with those of the United States Soccer Federation as well.
Some fans also chanted “No surrender” during the national anthem seemingly in reference to the generational conflict between Britain and the Irish Republican Army.
Croatia was also booed when their national anthem played. All of this could lead to the soccer association being fined.
Before the match took place, protestors were seen marching outside Wembley carrying a St George’s flag that stated: “Don’t Kneel For Marxism.”
There were reportedly 22,500 fans in attendance and the stadium was not full. But the fans were loud nevertheless.
A number of supporters also booed England players for taking a knee ahead of their pre-tournament against Austria and Romania at the Riverside Stadium in Middlesbrough.
Not every soccer fan is in favor of kneeling or for progressive mandates:
Before you can kick a soccer ball in England, you have to stand for coronavirus, kneel for BLM, wear BLM on your back instead of your name, wear a BLM patch on your arm, and wear an NHS patch across your heart.
Should throw on a global warming hat while you’re at it, lads.
— Mike’s id (@FreeBearly) June 20, 2020
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