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ENGLAND vice-captain Jordan Henderson believes if fans continue to boo when players take the knee to make a stand against racism then it highlights “there is still a problem” to fight.
The rearranged European Championship is just days away but the negative reaction from some to the group’s anti-racism stance has dominated much of the build-up.
Jeers were drowned out by applause when players took the knee before England faced Austria last Wednesday — their first international match in front of fans in 18 months.
Gareth Southgate spoke to his players about the incident ahead of Sunday’s return to Middlesbrough to take on Romania, telling the media the group “feel more than ever determined to take the knee” at Euro 2020.
England players received the adverse reaction their manager predicted when they made the gesture again on Sunday, which frustrated vice-captain Henderson and his teammates.
“No, it doesn’t (help anyone),” the Three Lions midfielder said.
“I think as players we’ve made it very clear that we’ll all stand together against racism and that is the reason that we’ll continue to take the knee and have done over the last few weeks.
“But I think the lads are starting to feel that they don’t really want to talk about it anymore.
“Of course everybody knows we stand together and you’ll see that in taking the knee, but we want to get on with football and concentrate on that and that’s our focus, really.”
Asked what his message is to fans going to Sunday’s Euro 2020 opener against Croatia, Henderson said: “Well, I think it shows that if there’s still people booing because we’re standing together against racism that there is still a problem and we’re still going to fight it and we stand together on that.
“That shows that even more that we need to keep going and we need keep fighting it.
“But from our side it’s about being together and doing what we think is right and that’s what we feel is right.”
England teammate Raheem Sterling says it is a “real disappointment” that some fans have not understood why players are taking the knee.
“Honestly, it’s something I didn’t even really want to speak on,” he told talkSPORT.
“But, yeah, it’s just how can I say… if you can’t understand the meaning behind it and the cause behind it, then it’s a real disappointment to see that.
“But I don’t really even want to go into it too much, to be honest with you.”
Luke Shaw said: “We believe in (taking the knee) and we won’t stop,” while fellow England defender Tyrone Mings would not allow the matter to be a distraction ahead of the tournament.
But the Aston Villa centre-back, who has spoken frequently and eloquently on the topic of racism and equality, said: “Whether that message gets through to the minority or not is something we should not ever give up on.
“I will speak about it until the day that I pass away,” said Mings, who played a role in creating the Football Association’s Leadership Diversity Code.
“I am a strong advocate for trying to educate people who might not understand issues they have been subjected to.
“They are my views, I never would give you the views of other people […]
“Like the manager said, we had a good conversation about whether we talk about it or not and I was part of that conversation and gave my input to it.
“While I don’t feel it is less important, I don’t want it to become a distraction.”
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