At the European Football Championships, the participating countries are not only looking at which players to set up and what system. Another question is kneeling or not kneeling? Although many European countries seem to support the anti-racism gesture, there is also resistance among their own fans.
Prior to England‘s wave-off match against Romania, English national coach Gareth Southgate left no misunderstanding: his team will kneel prior to each match to show solidarity with the fight against racism and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Belgium also kneels, with star player Romelu Lukaku as figurehead. Lukaku says to fight for diversity: “Not only for the black community, also for women. Color, sexuality, faith, doesn’t matter. Everyone needs to be respected,” he said to Belgian media.
Whistling Russians and Hungarians
At the European Football Championships, England, Wales and Belgium kneel before each match. Many other participating countries are unclear if they do. Other countries will kneel out of solidarity, as Switzerland did in the Wales race.
The Dutch team has announced not to kneel. Captain Georginio Wijnaldum said at the press conference yesterday: “We talked about that. But we decided not to do this. We try to highlight it in a different way.”
Eastern European countries such as Poland, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Russia and Slovakia are not expected to participate either, as shown by the British tabloid newspaper The Sun. And if you kneel there as a visiting team, you can expect rejection from the public, Hungarian Prime Minister Orbán said.
That was clear yesterday in Belgium‘s match against Russia in Saint Petersburg. The Belgian team did kneel, the Russian did not, and Russian fans flock out the Red Devils. Earlier Ireland received the same reception from the home audience in and against Hungary in a match.
Hungarian Prime Minister Orbán defended the boo-yelling fans in Budapest. “If you are a guest in a country, understand the culture and don’t provoke,” he said in a response.
Resistance in Western Europe
In other European countries, public support for the knee action appears to be greater. A UK survey shows that 79 percent of Portuguese are behind the best. Of the other nine Western European countries in the research, the Netherlands is at the bottom of the list: 44% of respondents are positive, 45 percent do not support it.
However, the teams of England and Belgium note that there is resistance to kneeling before the race at home. For example, the Facebook account of Sporza, the sports branch of the Flemish public channel VRT, placed a warning under a post about the Belgian national team.
“Service announcement for the sharels who came here again saw about Lukaku and the kneeling for BLM: we can remove responses faster than you can type them. So waste your time elsewhere, but not on our page.”
As with previous matches, the English players were also holed out by a part of their own audience in the way-off match. To this end, British Prime Minister Johnson decided to ask the fans “to cheer and not boo”, where he previously relied on the negative reactions to kneeling players.
Even if fans ignore Johnson‘s call, England’s team will keep kneeling. In an open letter, Southgate writes that its players should continue with it. “It is their duty to continue to communicate with the public on issues such as equality, inclusivity, and racial injustice, while using the power of their voice to raise and educate consciousness.”