England players take a knee before San Marino game and will do so for next two

England’s players took a knee for Thursday’s World Cup qualifier against San Marino and will continue to do so for their next two games.

The starting XI stood at the centre circle and observed a period of applause in tribute of several former footballers who have died in 2021 – Glenn Roeder, Frank Worthington, Colin Bell and Peter Swan – and then briefly knelt before the match kicked off.

Manager Gareth Southgate confirmed in his press conference prior to the game that the squad’s leadership group would hold talks over whether to continue with the protest which has regularly taken place prior to matches as part of an anti-racism initiative.

Immediately before the game, Southgate said: “We’re going to take the knee. I think we’re unanimous on the bigger issues. We’re a tight team and we are conscious that there is perception that perhaps the impact is waning a bit but we don’t see a better way of broaching the issue and we feel it’s important that they see their national football team united.”

Several club sides have abandoned the pre-match gesture of taking a knee as a display of unity against racism, which has been in place since football returned under Project Restart.

Aston Villa defender Tyrone Mings believes taking a knee still sends out a powerful message but Crystal Palace winger Wilfred Zaha has stopped doing so, feeling it is “degrading”.

The Scottish men’s national team have said they will now stand in solidarity with the fight against racism ahead of this month’s World Cup Qualifiers, while Wales’ players all took a knee before their defeat to Belgium on Wednesday night.

Scotland boss Steve Clarke says his team decided to stop taking a knee because the “powerful symbol” has become diluted.

Clarke said: “Recent events and past events show that you have to keep changing people’s mindsets about racism.

“I think the knee when it was first proposed and first taken was a really powerful symbol.

“It’s maybe now become a little diluted, there’s been some high profile cases recently, which shows the racism and the abuse is still there. It’s not acceptable to anybody.”

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