England players take the knee against Iran after Harry Kane ditches OneLove armband. England’s players took the knee prior to kick-off in Monday’s World Cup opener against Iran after earlier U-turning on wearing a OneLove rainbow armband.
The Three Lions have long made the anti-racism gesture before matches, though did not do so in September’s Nations League games against Germany and Italy after Premier League captains decided to limit its usage domestically.
But England felt this was an appropriate time to bring it back, with manager Gareth Southgate saying it is ‘what we stand for as a team and have done for a long period’.
He continued: ‘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.’
Typically players would take the knee at the sound of the referee’s whistle but, with FIFA not having been involved in the gesture, the players went to their knee while the pre-match kick-off countdown was taking place.
Earlier on Monday, the English and Welsh Football Associations confirmed that captains Harry Kane and Gareth Bale would not be wearing OneLove rainbow armbands at the World Cup.
Along with the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, the seven nations had intended to wear the armbands in support of the LGBTQ+ community and to highlight Qatar’s archaic homosexuality laws.
But, after being threatened with sporting and financial sanctions from FIFA, all those teams backtracked and hit out at football’s governing body in a joint statement.
‘FIFA has been very clear that it will impose sporting sanctions if our captains wear the armbands on the field of play,’ the statement read.
‘As national federations, we can’t put our players in a position where they could face sporting sanctions including bookings, so we have asked the captains not to attempt to wear the armbands in FIFA World Cup games.
‘We were prepared to pay fines that would normally apply to breaches of kit regulations and had a strong commitment to wearing the armband. However, we cannot put our players in the situation where they might be booked or even forced to leave the field of play.
‘We are very frustrated by the FIFA decision which we believe is unprecedented — we wrote to FIFA in September informing them of our wish to wear the ‘OneLove’ armband to actively support inclusion in football, and had no response. Our players and coaches are disappointed — they are strong supporters of inclusion and will show support in other ways.’
The Football Supporters’ Association said: ‘To paraphrase FIFA president Gianni Infantino – today LGBT+ football supporters and their allies will feel angry. Today we feel betrayed. Today we feel contempt for an organisation that has shown its true values by giving the yellow card to players and the red card to tolerance.
‘Never again should a World Cup be handed out solely on the basis of money and infrastructure. No country which falls short on LGBT+ rights, women’s rights, workers’ rights or any other universal human right should be given the honour of hosting a World Cup.
‘Since 2010 we have been raising questions about the suitability of Qatar as a World Cup host. Everyone could see this coming and it’s astonishing that, on the morning of England’s World Cup opener, FIFA are censoring players and the nine national FAs – including the FA and FAW – who wish to share a positive message.’