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FA tells England fans: Respect players taking the knee in Euro 2020 fixtures
12 June 2021, 22:06
England fans should "respect the wishes" of players when they take the knee at their Euro 2020 games, the Football Association (FA) has said.
The Three Lions kick off their campaign against Croatia in front of an expected 22,500 fans at Wembley on Sunday.
The knee gesture is used to show support for the fight for racial equality but has been booed by some fans in recent games.
On the eve of the tie, the FA said: "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.
"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 Boris Johnson's urging for 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.
It would sit alongside the solitary World Cup England holds – but they will have to overcome the likes of Croatia and their old rivals Scotland to progress in the tournament.
Scotland's players have said they will not take the knee but continue standing together against racism before games.
However, they have now announced they will join England players in taking the knee before the game with the "auld enemy", as a gesture of support to their rivals.
Southgate has criticised the section of fans who booed England players as the team took the knee in their Euro 2020 warm-up games.
He said it felt like they were being criticised and insisted the gesture is not political.
It remains to be seen in the jeers continue into England's group stage games.
Players will be desperate for support from fans as they look to live up their tag as one of the pre-tournament favourites, along with world champions France.
England's unexpectedly successful 2018 World Cup campaign saw joyous scenes throughout the country, with pints thrown in the air as the team finished fourth, their joint second best outcome in a World Cup.
After a dreadful year in which the everybody's lives changed completely, Southgate and the squad will hope they can avoid any negativity from swelling and instead recreate the feel-good atmosphere from the summer of 2018.