England will take the knee in their World Cup matches, their manager Gareth Southgate has announced on Sunday.
The symbolic act, which was thrust into the spotlight when Colin Kaepernick knelt during the U.S. national anthem in 2016, became commonplace in English football after its post-lockdown resumption in the summer of 2020. It is intended to protest against racism toward the Black community following the death of George Floyd and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests around the world.
The England national team took the knee before all their fixtures at last summer’s European Championships, a gesture that was not without its detractors. It was even whistled by some at Wembley Stadium in their opening game against Croatia, though those protests did not continue through the Three Lions’ run to the tournament final. Premier League clubs announced before the start of the 2022-23 season that they would not take the knee before every game but would instead only do so on specific occasions, for instance during October’s “No Room for Racism” initiative.
“We have discussed taking the knee, we feel we should,” said Southgate in his press conference before 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 the clubs have decided to only 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 inclusivity is very important.”
England captain Harry Kane is also expected to wear the One Love captain’s armband that was 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 unveiled two months ago, FIFA has not yet granted permission for those countries competing at the World Cup to wear the item. However, both the English Football Association and their Welsh counterparts, who face the USA later on Monday, have made clear that they are willing to accept a fine from world football’s governing body and wear the armband regardless.
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On the field, England will be without James Maddison (knee) and Kyle Walker (groin) for their first game at the tournament, though the latter has made impressively swift progress in his recovery. Southgate said: “It’s a little bit early for Kyle Walker but he is training with the team, so that’s ahead of where we thought he might be at this stage. Very positive.
“We’re looking forward to this challenge and I’ve really liked the way the players have approached training this week.”