SUPPORT: Kick It Out asks England fans to support taking the knee
PA - Lindsey Parnaby
Kick It Out has urged England fans to support taking the knee after a section of the crowd booed the players for doing so in the Austria game.
After renditions of ‘Football’s Coming Home’ and the national anthems, there were audible jeers as the players took the knee at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium – the first time an England side have made the anti-racism gesture in front of a home crowd before a Bukayo Saka goal gave them a 1-0 win over Austria.
It was soon drowned out by cheers among the near-7,000 crowd but England will hope the immediate reaction does not follow the team throughout the upcoming European Championships.
Head of player engagement at Kick It Out Troy Townsend said in a statement on Thursday: “Taking a knee was a gesture chosen by the players as a stance for greater racial equality in football.
“It is important to reiterate they have said explicitly that it was not intended to be connected to any specific political movement.
“All the players and staff who wear the Three Lions shirt with pride share a collective voice in the fight against racism.
“To those that booed, we ask you to support them irrespective of the gesture they use.
“The actions and support of all fans can send a powerful message across the whole country that football is united in the fight against racism.”
The initial jeers on Wednesday night were overtaken by a groundswell of support and, with other stadiums across England witnessing similar responses since the return of fans, England boss Gareth Southgate said after the game that he felt the message behind taking the knee before kick-off is being lost and he wants to see the meaning behind it reaffirmed.
“I think we have got a situation where some people seem to think it is a political stand that they don’t agree with. That’s not the reason the players are doing it. We are supporting each other,” said Southgate.
“I think the majority of people understand it, some people aren’t quite understanding the message and I suppose we are seeing that across a number of football grounds at the moment.”
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