Scotland have turned around and decided to kneel down when they face England at Wembley next Friday but will not make the anti-racist gesture before their other Group D fixtures, against the Czech Republic and Croatia, at Hampden Park.
On Thursday, the Scottish Football Association announced that Steve Clarke and his players will “stand up to racism” ahead of the kick-off of Euro 2020, continuing a policy introduced for the World Cup qualifiers in March. Yet just 24 hours later, the idea that Scotland would hold their own while Gareth Southgate’s England kneel at Wembley had sparked controversy and a temporary turnaround.
Clarke seems annoyed by the criticism his team has received, but is determined to think that the impact of the knee grip has become “diluted” and arguably counterproductive.
“Some individuals and groups have sought to politicize or distort Scotland’s stance on taking a stand against racism and discriminatory behavior in our UEFA Euro 2020 matches,” he said on Friday. “It behooves me to reiterate that we did [replaced kneeling with standing] of our first FIFA World Cup qualifiers and that this was done in collaboration with Scottish football clubs including Rangers and Celtic.
“I explained in March the rationale for the team’s decision: not only is it consistent with the collective approach of Scottish football, but the aim of taking the knee, raising awareness and helping to eradicate racism in football and society, has been diluted and undermined by continued player abuse.
Clarke appears concerned that his players could become unwitting posters for those who oppose anti-discrimination initiatives. “In light of the conflicting and inaccurate comments we have reflected as a group,” he said. “We remain committed to our principles of taking a stand at Hampden Park, but we have agreed to show solidarity with our counterparts in England. At Wembley we will stand against racism and kneel against ignorance. “
This announcement received the approval of the Scottish Prime Minister. “Good decision, Scotland – well done! Nicola Sturgeon tweeted as a separate racism debate threatened to overshadow Monday’s opener against the Czech Republic.
The Czechs will be without Slavia Prague Ondrej Kudela, who received a 10-match suspension from UEFA after being convicted of making racist comments to Rangers midfielder Glen Kamara in Glasgow in March, but his teammate international Tomas Soucek on Friday described this suspension as “” absurd. “
“I don’t think Ondrej said anything racist to him, there was no proof,” the West Ham midfielder told Czech media iDNES. “I find that absurd. I see how sensitive Brits are to racism every day. Two cultures collide because we think a little differently. That they want to fight racism is of course, but sometimes they go to such an extreme that it is downright counterproductive. If they keep looking for racism in everything, they can never get rid of it completely. We’re almost too scared of them to say anything so as not to offend or slander someone.
Clarke, meanwhile, can’t wait for the opening ball to be kicked in Scotland’s first final since France 1998. “I’ve never been in a major tournament so I’m sure I’ll do some mistakes but you want to be questioned, ”he said. “You want to be watched and put under pressure. “
He believes it is imperative to avoid defeat against the Czech Republic. “You shouldn’t lose the first game,” he said. “It might be safe, but we’ll definitely play for three points. Normally, three points almost guarantee you a place in the bottom 16. If we can do it, it will be a good tournament.