Members of England’s national football team will take the knee during every match at the World Cup in Qatar, officials announced over the weekend.
They will start doing the anti-racism gesture when they play against Iran in the opening Group B game at the Khalifa International Stadium in the Qatari capital of Doha at 4:00 p.m. local time Monday, Sky News reported.
“We have discussed taking the knee. We feel we should. It’s what we stand for as a team and have done for a long period of time,” Gareth Southgate, the English team’s manager, said.
Migrant workers in Qatar faced “structural racism” as they prepared for this year’s World Cup, a United Nations report found.
More than 6,500 migrant workers from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have died in Qatar since it won the right to host the event, The Guardian reported in 2021.
England, nicknamed the Three Lions for the imagery featured in the team’s crest, did not take the knee during their qualifying games against Germany and Italy in September.
Captains of teams in the Premier League, the highest level of the men’s English football league system, reportedly decided to limit taking the knee to certain games such as Boxing Day, the Football Association’s (FA) Challenge Cup and Carabao Cup Finals.
“Of course, we understand in the Premier League that the clubs have decided to only do that for certain games, big occasions,” Southgate said.
“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,” he added.
Harry Kane, the captain of England’s national football team, also intends to wear a “OneLove” armband at the World Cup.
The campaign was designed to highlight discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community and Qatar, The Independent reported.
Same-sex sexual activity is prohibited in Qatar under the country’s Penal Code 2004, according to the UK-based Human Dignity Trust.
Qatari security forces also arbitrarily arrested LGBT people and subjected them to ill-treatment in detention ahead of the World Cup, Human Rights Watch alleged.
Kane and Wales’ Gareth Bale are reportedly among the seven captains who will wear the OneLove armband, along with the skippers of Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland.
Mark Bullingham, the FA’s chief executive, has accepted that England may be fined, The Times reported.
“We think it’s really important to show our values. And that’s what we’ll be doing,” Bullingham said.
Gianni Infantino, the President of the International Association Football Federation (FIFA), the World Cup’s organizer, stated Sunday that there were “clear regulations on armbands.”
Conversations between FIFA and the FA, the governing body of England’s association of football, could last until the hours before Monday’s match begins, according to The Sun.