Gareth Southgate insists his England players WILL take a knee at the World Cup in Qatar, starting against Iran on Monday in their Group B opener. The Three Lions did not take to a knee before their two most recent matches but will again return to doing the gesture over the winter.
The England players discussed the issue before training in the Doha heat on Sunday. And it was decided collectively that they will demonstrate their opposition to discrimination and racism by taking the knee.
Southgate said: “We feel we should. We think it’s a strong statement that will go around the world, especially for young people, that inclusivity is important.”
England’s stars did not take a knee against Germany and Italy in September. And in the Premier League, players have only done the gesture in certain fixtures. Captains decided that taking a knee on regular occurrence was less powerful than doing so only at significant moments.
They did so on games played between October 8 and 16 as part of the No Room For Racism campaign. There are also plans to do so on Boxing Day and at the finals of the Carabao Cup and FA Cup. Southgate added: “Of course we understand in the Premier League that the clubs have decided to only do that for certain games, big occasions.
“We feel this is the biggest and 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.” Taking the knee became a regular occurrence in football following the death of George Floyd in the United States with footballers keen to show solidarity in an attempt to fight discrimination.
Harry Kane on Sunday also confirmed his intention to wear the ‘OneLove’ armband – though FIFA have sought to stop him from doing so. There are fears he will be booked immediately as the match begins if he wears it against FIFA’s wishes in Qatar.
Kane must now decide whether or not to continue to wear the armband and be booked anyway. The armband is a show of support for LGBTQ+ rights. FIFA has instead requested that all captains promote other messages such as ‘Football unites the world’, ‘Share the meal’ and ‘Bring the moves’ instead of the ‘OneLove’ strapping.
The governing body may even decide to send officials into dressing rooms before matches begin to remove ‘OneLove’ armbands. Kane explained in Doha: “We’ve made it clear as a team and a staff and organisation that we want to wear the armband. I know the FA are talking to FIFA at the moment.
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“And I’m sure by game time tomorrow they will have their decision. I think we’ve made it clear that we want to wear it.” Southgate said: “I know there are conversations going on. I think a number of European countries have spoken. We’ve made our position clear. Hopefully everything will be resolved before the game.”
Same-sex relations are illegal in Qatar and punishable by up to three years of jail time. The host country has been roundly criticised for its human rights record.
But FIFA president Gianni Infantino bizarrely said at a press conference on Saturday: “Today I feel Qatari. Today I feel Arab. Today I feel African. Today I feel gay. Today I feel disabled. Today I feel (like) a vagrant. Today I feel (like) a migrant worker.
“Of course, I am not Qatari, I am not an Arab, I am not African, I am not gay, I am not disabled. But I feel like it, because I know what it means to be discriminated, to be bullied, as a foreigner in a foreign country.” His comments have also been widely called into question.