London (AFP) – England manager Gareth Southgate confirmed his side will take the knee before kick-off in all of their matches at Euro 2020 despite the gesture being booed by supporters since fans returned to stadiums in recent weeks.
Sections of the crowd voiced their displeasure at the gesture ahead of England’s 1-0 friendly win over Austria in Middlesbrough on Wednesday, while there were also boos ahead of the FA Cup and Champions League finals last month.
Taking the knee, initially performed by NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, has become commonplace in top level football matches over the past year as a sign of protest against racial injustice.
The Three Lions are in action again in Middlesbrough on Sunday against Romania.
All three of England’s group games at the European Championship will be played in front of a 22,000 crowd at Wembley.
“The most important thing for our players is to know we are totally united on it, we are totally committed to supporting each other,” said Southgate during his pre-match press conference on Saturday.
“We feel, more than ever, determined to to take the knee through this tournament.
“We accept that there might be an adverse reaction, we are just going to ignore that and move forward.
“I think the players are sick of talking about the consequences of should they, shouldn’t they. They’ve had enough really.
“Their voices have been heard loud and clear, they are making their stand but they want to talk about the football.”
Leeds midfielder Kalvin Phillips said he was “confused and disappointed” to hear the boos ahead of the Austria match.
“I don’t think it’s a great situation, especially for us players,” said Phillips.
“The lads spoke about it afterwards and we came to the conclusion that no matter what happens around it we’re still going to participate in kneeling, and I think that’s a great idea.”
Southgate has delayed the naming of a replacement for the injured Trent Alexander-Arnold in his 26-man squad until after Sunday’s game in case of further injuries.
But he is optimistic that Manchester United captain Harry Maguire will recover from ankle ligament damage in time to play a part in the tournament.
Maguire has not featured since suffering the injury against Aston Villa four weeks ago and Southgate admitted he has made plans if the centre-back does not recover in time.
“Our medical team are pleased with his progress. All of the guide is he should be available (for the tournament) and it is a case of when he can slot back into training with the group,” added Southgate.
“I’m very realistic about that and we’ve picked a squad on the basis if we didn’t have him, we have players to come in.”
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