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Team GB football squad ‘united’ in decision to take knee before Olympic matches

·4-min read

The Team GB football squad will take the knee before matches at the Tokyo Olympics.

The decision follows clarification from the International Olympic Committee that gestures such as this were permitted on the field of play prior to the start of competition, a statement on said.

Head coach Hege Riise said: “The players and staff have been taking the knee at club and international level for over a year now and we were all united in our decision to continue doing whatever we can to raise awareness of racism and discrimination in all its forms, standing in unity and solidarity with all those whose lives are affected.”

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Players from Britain and abroad, in both the women’s and men’s game, have chosen to take the knee since football’s resumption amid the coronavirus pandemic in a bid to bring attention to racial injustice.

Andy Anson, British Olympic Association CEO, said: “As one of the most diverse and inclusive sports teams in the UK, Team GB will always support any athlete from any sport and their right to promote equality and a more just society, where it is carried out peacefully, respectfully and without disruption.

“By taking the knee our women’s football side are embodying the values of Team GB.”

Team GB coach Hege Riise
Hege Riise will lead Team GB’s football team at the Toyko Olympics (Mike Egerton/PA)

Rules around protesting were earlier this month relaxed by the IOC, with athletes able to “express their views” before and after competing, as long as gestures are not “disruptive” and done with the respect of all competitors.

Riise added: “We are clear that taking the knee is an important symbol of peaceful protest against discrimination, injustice and inequality in society and we are glad that the IOC have acknowledged the importance of this form of freedom of expression.

“We will do so with the utmost respect for our fellow competitors, officials and the IOC, with due regard for the ideals that lie at the heart of the Olympic movement.”

The England men’s team experienced boos from some fans before Euro 2020 when they took the knee before two warm-up games at the Riverside Stadium in Middlesbrough, and again at Wembley in their tournament opener against Croatia.

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It prompted manager Gareth Southgate and Prime Minister Boris Johnson to urge supporters not to boo the anti-racism gesture although Home Secretary Priti Patel told GB News at the time she does not “support people participating
in that type of gesture politics”.

Patel tweeted on Monday morning that she was “disgusted” at the abuse Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka received online after the trio missed penalties following the shootout defeat to Italy in the Euro 2020 final.

Given her earlier stance, though, Aston Villa and England centre-back Tyrone Mings posted on Twitter: “You don’t get to stoke the fire at the beginning of the tournament by labelling our anti-racism message as ‘Gesture Politics’ and then pretend to be disgusted when the very thing we’re campaigning against, happens.”

Steph Houghton, left, and Sophie Ingle
Steph Houghton, left, and Sophie Ingle are part of the leadership group (Mike Egerton/PA)

Riise, meanwhile, has named Steph Houghton and Sophie Ingle, captains of England and Wales respectively, and Scotland’s vice-skipper Kim Little, as the three Team GB captains for the Tokyo Games.

The trio will captain games on rotation through the tournament.

Riise said: “We are fortunate to have so many experienced and talented players in our squad and we think of ourselves as a ‘leaderful’ team, where every individual brings their own leadership strengths to the group.

“However Steph, Sophie and Kim will lead the way on the pitch. This is a very close group on and off the pitch and I have been so impressed how they have all come together.”

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