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Southgate to let England players decide on taking the knee

London (AFP) – England manager Gareth Southgate said on Wednesday he will seek input from his senior players over whether the Three Lions continue to take the knee before matches.

The gesture has been made before every Premier League match since the English top-flight resumed from a coronavirus shutdown in June as a sign of protest against racial injustice.

However, racial abuse of players, including many England internationals, has continued on social media.

Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha became the first Premier League player earlier this month not to take the knee.

“It doesn’t matter whether we kneel or stand, some of us still continue to receive abuse,” said Zaha.

Rangers and Celtic also chose to stand rather than kneel for last weekend’s Old Firm derby as a show of support for Rangers midfielder Glen Kamara, who alleged he was the victim of a racial slur by Slavia Prague’s Ondrej Kudela during a Europa League match last week.

Slavia have strongly rejected the racism allegations.

Southgate said he has asked his senior players, who form a leadership group, to discuss the matter with the rest of the squad ahead of England’s first 2022 World Cup qualifier against Qatar on Thursday.

“I think it is a good process for them to hear each other’s views,” said Southgate.

“The one thing we are very clear on is we will be unified on what we do. If there is any doubt, I think we will take the knee.”

Thursday’s match will be Southgate’s 50th as England boss, during which time high-profile incidents of racial abuse have been a regular occurrence.

A Euro 2020 qualifier in Bulgaria in October 2019 was twice halted in the first-half due to racist chanting.

“The debate whether we should take the knee or walk off the pitch or not, they are not the deeper discussions which need to happen,” added Southgate. “The problem is racism.”

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