England will take a knee in their World Cup matches, manager Gareth Southgate announced on Sunday.
The symbolic act, which came to prominence when Colin Kaepernick knelt during the US national anthem in 2016, has become commonplace in English football following its post-lockdown resumption in the summer of 2020. The aim is to protest racism against the community black. following the death of George Floyd and subsequent Black Lives Matter protests around the world.
The England team took a knee before all of their matches at last summer’s European Championships, a gesture that had its detractors. It was even whistled by some at Wembley Stadium in their opening game against Croatia, although these protests did not continue during the Three Lions’ run to the final of the tournament. Premier League clubs announced before the start of the 2022-23 season that they would not take a knee before every game, but would only do so on specific occasions, for example during October’s “No Room for Racism” initiative.
“We discussed taking a knee, we thought we should,” Southgate told his news conference ahead of England’s World Cup opener against Iran on Monday. “It’s what we stand for as a team and have done for a long time. We understand in the Premier League that clubs have only decided to do it for certain games, big occasions. We feel this is the biggest.
“We think it’s a strong statement that will go around the world for young people in particular to see that inclusion is very important.”
England captain Harry Kane is also expected to wear the One Love captain’s armband proposed by 10 European nations, described by the striker as “a clear message” intended to be “against all forms of discrimination”. Despite the plan having been disclosed two months ago, Fifa has not yet authorized the use of the piece by the countries that compete in the World Cup. However, both the English Football Association and their Welsh counterparts, who face the United States on Monday, have made it clear they are willing to accept a fine from world football’s governing body and wear the armband anyway.
On the pitch, England will be without James Maddison (knee) and Kyle Walker (groin) in their first game of the tournament, although the latter has made impressive progress in his recovery. Southgate said: “It’s a little early for Kyle Walker but he’s been training with the team so he’s ahead of where we thought he could be at this stage. Very positive.
“We’re looking forward to this challenge and I’ve really enjoyed the way the players have approached training this week.”