Boos drowned out as England players take the knee before Croatia game

13 June 2021, 15:01 | Updated: 13 June 2021, 20:01

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

A chorus of boos was drowned out by loud cheering and clapping as England players took the knee before their first Euro 2020 match against Croatia.

England kicked off their European campaign in front of roughly 22,500 fans in London's Wembley Stadium on Sunday.

There were concerns spectators would resoundingly boo the national side ahead of the first whistle due to their ongoing decision to 'take the knee' before games.

Before the fixture, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Football Association (FA) both urged supporters not to boo the team and instead "respect the wishes" of the players.

The knee gesture is used to show support in the fight for racial equality but has been jeered by some fans in recent games.

Read more: FA tells England fans: Respect players taking knee in Euro 2020 games

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England players took the knee before their opening Euro 2020 match against Croatia
England players took the knee before their opening Euro 2020 match against Croatia. Picture: PA

However, LBC Correspondent Rachael Venables, who was among the crowd on Sunday afternoon, said any dissatisfaction at the gesture was outdone by cheers and applause.

She wrote on Twitter: "A few boos as England took the knee, but it was just completely drowned out by all the cheering and clapping by most of the crowd in response - before kick-off here at Wembley."

However, the Associated Press' Global Sports Correspondent Rob Harris, an occasional contributor to LBC who was also at the game, said there were also chants of “no surrender” during the English national anthem - a chant that has been adopted by some far-right and sectarian groups in the past and is sung in opposition to the IRA.

On the eve of the tie, the FA said of the 'take the knee' gesture: "They (the players) are doing this as a mechanism of peacefully protesting against discrimination, injustice and inequality. This is personally important to the players and the values the team collectively represents.

Explained: Taking the knee in sports: The meaning behind the powerful stance

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"This gesture of unity and fighting against inequality can be traced back as far as the 18th century. It is not new, and English football has made it very clear that it does not view this as being aligned to a political organisation or ideology.

"There can be no doubt as to why the players are taking the knee and what it represents in a footballing context.

"We encourage those that oppose this action to reflect on the message you are sending to the players you are supporting.

"Please respect their wishes and remember that we should all be united in the fight to tackle discrimination. Together.

"They will do their best for you. Please do your best for them."

It follows Mr Johnson urging fans not to boo the team, and jeers have led England manager Gareth Southgate to intervene, penning an essay to the nation.

The PM's official spokesman said on Friday: "The prime minister respects the right of all people to peacefully protest and make their feelings known about injustices.

"The prime minister wants to see everybody getting behind the team to cheer them on, not boo."

The delayed European tournament, for which England are among the favourites, kicked off on Friday night, with games played in stadiums across the continent.

Several games will be held at Wembley, including the final, meaning England fans won't need to leave the country to see Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling try to claim the nation's first ever win in the competition.