England will continue to kneel before their matches during Euro 2020 and is “more determined than ever” to ignore any boos from the stands, according to coach Gareth Southgate.
The team held a meeting to discuss their next steps after they were booed by a loud minority of supporters for taking an anti-racist stance in their friendly against Austria in Middlesbrough. They overwhelmingly agreed to continue, starting when they played Romania in another preparation game on Sunday, and Southgate said his players had “had enough” of being called in to explain an action that should speak for itself.
“The first thing is that collectively we are very disappointed that it happened,” he said. “I think you have to put yourself in the shoes of a young England player about to represent his country. We are all trying to move towards equality and support our own teammates because of some of the experiences they have gone through in their lives, but people decided to boo.
“I think these people should put themselves in the shoes of these young players. If those were your children, if they were old enough to have children, how would you feel if your children were in that situation?
“The most important thing for our players is that they know that we are totally united in it. We are fully committed to supporting each other, supporting the team, and we feel more than ever that we are determined to get on our knees during this tournament. “
Southgate said booing one’s own team is “a very strange response in my mind.” He was speaking alongside midfielder Kalvin Phillips, who said he had been “confused and disappointed” when he heard the reaction seconds before kick-off. The controversy has threatened to distract attention from preparations for a tournament primarily at home, and Southgate said his team’s stance is final.
“We accept that there could be an adverse reaction, but we are going to ignore that and move on,” he said. “The players are sick of talking about the consequences of if they should, shouldn’t. They’ve really had enough, and as far as I’m concerned, they’re not going to answer any more questions about this during the tournament. If it happens, it happens.
“The fact that we are going to move on is shocking. But how many times have we sat here in the last two years discussing these things? I must never get tired of doing that because I have no right to be tired of doing it.
“I have not lived the life that my players have nor have I experienced the things that they have. It saddens me that they are so hardened that they are almost dismissive. That is something on which, in our country, we should all reflect ”.
England will begin their Euro 2020 campaign next Sunday against Croatia at Wembley, with Scotland and the Czech Republic completing their set of opponents in Group D.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism