Soccer

England boss Gareth Southgate vows team won’t ‘stick to football’ at Euro 2020

Gareth Southgate's open letter to England fans

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England manager Gareth Southgate says his side will not “just stick to football” during this summer’s European Championships. The Three Lions are focusing on their opening Euro 2020 match against Croatia on Sunday, but Southgate says important off-the-pitch issues will still remain on the team’s agenda.

England’s official preparations for the tournament are now complete, with the final 26-man squad confirmed after last week’s friendlies against Austria and Romania.

On Tuesday the team moved from Middlesbrough, where they picked up back-to-back 1-0 wins at the Riverside Stadium, to their St George’s Park training base ahead of Sunday’s Group D opener at Wembley.

While the primary concern is the make-up of Southgate’s starting XI against Croatia, England remain committed to their united stance against all forms of discrimination.

England were booed by a section of their own fans after taking the knee before kick-off in both of their friendlies last week.

The stance is in support of the Black Lives Matter movement but is separate to the political organisation of the same name.

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Southgate confirmed on Saturday that his side will continue with the anti-racism gesture throughout the tournament, despite the possible “adverse reaction” from supporters.

He has now written an open letter to England fans, explaining further the beliefs he and his side stand for.

“This is a special group. Humble, proud and liberated in being their true selves,” he wrote for The Players’ Tribune.

“Our players are role models. And, beyond the confines of the pitch, we must recognise the impact they can have on society.

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“We must give them the confidence to stand up for their teammates and the things that matter to them as people.

“I have never believed that we should just stick to football.”

England have decided to take the knee to highlight and oppose all forms of discrimination in football and wider society.

Southgate spoke eloquently about the reasons behind the stance and addressed those that booed ahead of the Romania game and he has now reiterated the same points.

“I know my voice carries weight, not because of who I am but because of the position that I hold,” he wrote.

“At home, I’m below the kids and the dogs in the pecking order but publicly I am the England men’s football team manager. I have a responsibility to the wider community to use my voice, and so do the players.

“It’s their duty to continue to interact with the public on matters such as equality, inclusivity and racial injustice, while using the power of their voices to help put debates on the table, raise awareness and educate.

“Social media has been a key resource in giving our players a platform and has been a positive tool in so many ways.

“In fact, I feel like this generation of England players is closer to the supporters than they have been for decades.

“Despite the polarisation we see in society, these lads are on the same wavelength as you on many issues.”

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