It wasn’t a good look.
Following the pre-match buzz and feelgood atmosphere created by fans returning to Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium, the sound of boos when players took a knee before England’s friendly with Austria severely altered the mood.
Thankfully the negative reaction was drowned out by applause from the majority of the ground, yet as Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate said afterwards, ‘we can’t deny the fact that it happened.’
Why people choose to boo such a tranquil gesture is extremely hard to fathom. Some will say it’s part of a political movement – yet clearly for some the real message isn’t getting through.
Southgate spoke well on the matter during his post-match press conference, saying that he and his staff will support the squad. This was a symbol of unity and togetherness in the fight for equality.
Just think how teenagers Bukayo Saka, 19, and Jude Bellingham, 17, will have felt being booed by a home crowd as they sank to the turf.
In just over a week, the same fans are likely to be cheering England on at the European Championships. So is there no consideration for their human emotions? Are they merely there to entertain?
Three years ago, Southgate’s side brought the country together as players from multiple backgrounds and of different colour engineered a memorable run to an World Cup semi-final in Russia.
Fans rose to their feet when Saka scored the winning goal against Austria on Wednesday. To reiterate, though, the majority were quick to applaud the taking of the knee before kick-off.
For Saka, who justified his selection for Southgate’s 26-man squad with his first international goal and fine performance against the Austrians, this should have been an all-round memorable evening.
Instead, his post-match media duties included questions about the actions of others prior to the game.
“I don’t understand why they did it,” replied the Arsenal teenager when asked about the pre-match booing. “You’ll have to ask the fans that were booing to understand why they did it.”
Such actions are understandably hurtful for players of colour and also angers their team-mates and coaching staff. These are people that the country will be desperate to do well this summer.
Yet clearly this is part of a bigger issue, and fans have to realise what players are making a stand for.
Tickets for this fixture didn’t reach general sale and it wasn't just attended by fans from the North East. This is a societal issue across the country.
It is not the first time the taking of the knee has been booed at an English ground in recent months, and some will argue the gesture has lost its meaning.
Middlesbrough are one of multiple EFL clubs which hadn’t been taking a knee before games during the 2020/21 season, as former captain Britt Assombalonga felt the act had become empty. Others feel their actions can make a difference when televised on a global stage, yet their views are the same.
There is no room for racism.
What did you make of England fans booing? Leave your comments below