England suffered a 1-0 defeat against Hungary on Saturday evening but the game was overshadowed by boos when the Three Lions were taking the knee prior to kick-off
Gareth Southgate insisted England’s players will continue to take the knee after they were jeered by thousands of Hungarian kids for their stand against racism.
UEFA’s decision to allow more than 30,000 children into the Puskas Arena after originally opting to hit Hungary hard for the bigoted behaviour of their fans over the past year backfired badly. England lost their opening Nations League tie – and their 22-game unbeaten run – after Dominik Szoboszlai fired home a controversial 65th-minute penalty.
And while Southgate insisted he wanted to concentrate on the defeat and the games against Germany and Italy this week before the return against Hungary next week, he was clearly frustrated by the reaction of the home supporters.
Southgate said: “There were youngsters lining the streets before the game and they gave us some pantomime boos. But the reaction was totally different when we took the knee. It felt like inherited thinking – but I hear it in our stadiums as well.
“That’s why we do it, that’s why we take a stand, and we will continue to do it as a team.”
Raheem Sterling and Jude Bellingham both suffered racist abuse when England hammered Hungary in a World Cup qualifier last September. There was no repeat of that kind of abuse – but Southgate questioned whether UEFA were right to relax their original decision to play the game behind closed doors.
Southgate added: “From a development perspective, I want the team to be playing in front of fans. So I am torn between that and what the punishment should mean.
“We are always trying to educate people around the world. I don’t know why people would choose to boo the gesture we make. Young people don’t know what they are doing so much, so they must be being influenced by adults.
“We have made our position clear. People know what we believe and stand for.”