Section of England fans defy pleas not to boo players taking the knee at Wembley

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 13: A general view inside the stadium as players of England takes a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement prior to the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Group D match between England and Croatia at Wembley Stadium on June 13, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 13: A general view inside the stadium as players of England takes a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement prior to the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Group D match between England and Croatia at Wembley Stadium on June 13, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

A minority of England fans once again defied calls not to jeer the players as they took the knee before kick-off in the Euro 2020 clash with Croatia.

Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate, the Football Association and prime minister Boris Johnson all urged supporters not to boo the anti-racism stance.

But those requests fell on some deaf ears, with an audible round of jeers from some of the expected 22,500 crowd – although cheers from the vast majority soon drowned them out.

Croatia's defender Sime Vrsaljko (L) challenges for the ball with Raheem Sterling.
Croatia's defender Sime Vrsaljko (L) challenges for the ball with Raheem Sterling.

The Croatia national anthem was also booed and the reaction followed on from jeers at the two warm-up games played at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium – only this time the whole continent was watching as England fans returned to Wembley for the first time since November 2019.

Southgate said last week that he would not allow his players to continue to be questioned about the knee and the subsequent reaction once the tournament got under way.

A UEFA spokesman told the PA news agency ahead of the game the governing body cannot punish any nations whose supporters do react to the gesture.

“UEFA has a zero tolerance against racism and any player who wants to demand equality amongst human beings by taking the knee will be allowed to do so,” he said.

“We urge spectators to show respect for teams and players taking the knee.

“UEFA will not take disciplinary action against the national association for their fans’ reaction to this initiative as there are no legal grounds to do so in the current competition and disciplinary regulations and to do so would be to punish a national association whose players have taken a stand against racism.”

Harry Kane attempts a header during the UEFA EURO 2020 Group D football match between England and Croatia at Wembley.
Harry Kane attempts a header during the UEFA EURO 2020 Group D football match between England and Croatia at Wembley.

Kieran Trippier surprisingly started at left-back as England kicked off their Euro 2020 campaign against Croatia at Wembley.

Gareth Southgate turned to Atletico Madrid’s title-winning right-back to play on the left of the back four, with Luke Shaw on the bench and Ben Chilwell conspicuously absent from the matchday squad.

Jadon Sancho and Harry Maguire also were not in the 23, with John Stones and Tyrone Mings at the heart of defence with Kyle Walker on the right.

Kalvin Phillips and Declan Rice started at the base of a midfield that saw Mason Mount play in a more advanced role, with Raheem Sterling and Phil Foden playing either side of captain Harry Kane.

Jordan Pickford started between the posts against a Croatia side captained by Luka Modric.

England boss Southgate explained his decision to play Trippier out of position.

He told the BBC: “With Kieran, we feel a very experienced player, a good one v one defender to stop crosses coming in.

“His communication and leadership will be a help. We have got changes in the backline and I think his experience will help us.”