Euro 2020: football returns home, but kneeling divides England fans


Ahead of the start of Euro 2020 on June 11, England will play their last friendly in Middlesbrough on Sunday against Romania, but the background music is more jarring.

As England’s players knelt before the kick-off of Wednesday’s friendly against Austria – a game also played at Middlesbrough – the gesture was booed by some fans.

“A strong and strong message”

The act of kneeling – made famous in 2016 by NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who knelt down to protest the national anthem – was picked up by English Premier League footballers during the 2019/2020 season as an act of solidarity in the wake of global outrage over the murder of George Floyd.
England’s top-flight players continued to kneel at the top of matches last season, although Crystal Palace star Wilfried Zaha became the first Premier League player not to do so before kick-off, instead choosing to show up before his team’s game against West Brom. Zaha said it is “becoming something we just do”.
In March, former Arsenal and Barcelona star Thierry Henry told CNN Sport that the rhetoric on the issue had deviated so much that people are now “forgetting” why the players started kneeling in the first place. .

“The cause is, what are you going to do to make it better for everyone? Equality. Everyone, and obviously I’m going to talk about my community,” Henry told CNN’s Darren Lewis.

“It’s not so much about kneeling or standing – which, by the way, I thought kneeling was a strong and strong message and we all know where that came from – but then the discussion turned to: are we standing or are we on our knees? “

England players Jude Bellingham and Tyrone Mings of England kneel ahead of the international friendly against Austria at Riverside Stadium on June 02, 2021 in Middlesbrough.
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Racism in England in 2021

But footballers are on their knees and the response from some fans to the act has sparked introspection and wider debate about what he says about racism in England in 2021

When asked if people wear “their racism more lightly” because of kneeling, Tony Burnett, chief executive of the inclusive football organization Kick It Out, told the Independent newspaper this week: ” I don’t think it’s about taking the knee, I think it started when Brexit started.

“Brexit has become an excuse for racism to resurface in the UK and we are seeing that manifesting itself in football now. I don’t think the players kneeling caused this, I think the people who kneel down trying to fix it.

“What is at the root of this is government behavior, government attitudes towards race, the inability to tackle racism at the national level and to allow organizations and sports like football to get away with it for years. “

Earlier this year, a UK government-backed report on institutional racism that found no evidence the country is “still institutionally racist” was viewed as “laundering” by advocates of racial equality.
“If you boo England players for taking the knee you are part of the reason players take the knee,” the former England international tweeted. Gary Lineker.

Commenting on the boos ahead of the game against Austria, one Twitter user went even further.

“From what we are seeing from a small number of fans, England are going to be seriously embarrassed in Euros by the extreme racist element of our fans,” he tweeted. “We make no secret of it, they proudly boo the recognition of equality. Hard to believe.”

Another Twitter user put forward a different point of view: “What if some people hoot themselves because they are fed up with virtue signals and nothing is done about it. Having to see the players get on their knees when nothing is happening, no changes are made, etc? “

English coach Gareth Southgate looks on during the international friendly against Austria.
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“Confused and disappointed”

England manager Gareth Southgate said on Saturday his side will continue to kneel before all of their Euro 2020 matches kick off.

“The most important thing for our players is to know that we are totally united on this, we are totally committed to supporting each other,” Southgate told reporters.

“We feel, more than ever, determined to take the knee to the knee in this tournament. We accept that there may be an adverse reaction, we will just ignore it and move on.

“I think players are fed up with talking about the consequences of should they, shouldn’t they. They really have had enough.

“Their voices have been heard loud and clear, they are taking a stand but they want to talk about football.”

A member of England’s Euro 2020 squad – Leeds midfielder Kalvin Phillips – said he was “confused and disappointed” by the boos ahead of the game against Austria.

“I don’t think it’s a good situation, especially for us players,” said Phillips.

“The guys talked about it after the fact and we came to the conclusion that no matter what is going on around it, we’re still going to participate in kneeling, and I think that’s a great idea.”

Tory lawmaker Lee Anderson has said he will boycott England games following the players’ decision to kneel.

When England players knelt ahead of Sunday’s friendly against Romania, boos were heard again at Riverside Stadium, although other fans applauded the gesture.

As at Euro 1996, England’s group matches will be played at Wembley Stadium. The team’s first game is against Croatia on June 13 in front of a crowd of 22,000.

“Euro 96 was a golden age – or three golden weeks,” Guardian reporter Simon Hattenstone wrote on Saturday.

“It was a coming together of all kinds of things – style, hope, politics, culture, business, sunshine, under the bright sun of international football.”

What happens ahead of Sunday’s friendly against Romania kicks off is likely to give some insight into whether the mood surrounding England’s Euro 2020 campaign will be just as upbeat.



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