Football boo boys ‘don’t understand’ the message behind taking a knee, claims England boss Southgate
England manager Gareth Southgate says some football fans “don’t quite understand the message” after a section of the crowd was heard booing when players took a knee before the Three Lions' friendly against Austria.
Jeers were heard from a section of the 7,000 crowd at the Riverside Stadium in Middlesbrough on Wednesday night when players dropped to one knee prior to kick-off. The whistles were soon drowned out by applause from other supporters in attendance.
“I did hear it,” England boss Southgate said afterwards.
“It’s not something on behalf of our black players I wanted to hear because it feels as though it’s a criticism of them.”
The Three Lions manager claimed that some fans misunderstood the gesture, which is widely associated with support for Black Lives Matter – a movement often scrutinized for its elements of radical left-wing ideology.
Southgate, however, tried to separate the act of taking a knee from any broader political context.
“I think we have got a situation where some people seem to think it’s a political stand that they don’t agree with,” he said.
“That’s not the reason the players are doing it. We’re supporting each other. I was pleased that was drowned out by the majority of the crowd.
“We can’t deny the fact that it happened. I think the most important thing for our players to know is all their teammates and all the staff are very supportive.
“I think the majority of people understand it. I think some people aren’t quite understanding the message. I suppose we’re seeing that across a number of football grounds at the moment.”
In the first of two warm-up games ahead of this summer’s Euro 2020 tournament, England overcame Austria thanks to a 56th-minute goal from Arsenal youngster Bukayo Saka.
The 19-year-old winger, who is black, later questioned the boos from the crowd.
“I don’t understand why they did it,” Saka said.
“I heard some boos and I heard some claps. But you’ll have to ask the fans that were booing to understand why they did it.”
Wednesday evening in the north east of England was not the first time fans have made their displeasure clear at players taking a knee.
After being allowed back into stadiums amid the Covid pandemic, supporters at several clubs including Championship team Millwall were heard jeering the gesture – leading to threats of stadium bans and calls for them to be ‘reeducated’.
At Welsh club Swansea, police were even deployed in additional numbers to keep fans from protesting outside the stadium while players took a knee inside.Also on rt.com Police in Wales STOP anti-BLM football fans from protesting OUTSIDE stadium – as players freely continue to take a knee
Jeers were also heard when players performed the gesture before last-month’s all-English Champions League final between Chelsea and Manchester City in Porto. On that occasion, the finger was mostly pointed at supporters of the London club.
On the pitch in Middlesbrough on Wednesday, Southgate had a chance to run the eye over the likes of key men such as Harry Kane, but also tested several fringe members of his squad heading into Euro 2020.
However, the England boss was left with a potential injury headache after Trent Alexander-Arnold – one of four right-backs named in the final squad for the tournament – limped off toward the end of the game with a thigh injury.
The 22-year-old Liverpool man will undergo scans in the coming days to assess the extent of the damage, before a decision is made on whether he will be forced to withdraw from the squad.
England’s Euro 2020 campaign kicks off against former World Cup foes Croatia at Wembley on June 13, before the Three Lions host old enemy Scotland and then the Czech Republic in their remaining Group D games.