England are chasing their first World Cup since 1966 at this year’s tournament in Qatar.
Gareth Southgate’s side came close to winning the title in 2021 but lost the EURO final on penalties to Italy.
The Three Lions have been in mixed form this year, although they have shown enough signs that they can be real contenders at this World Cup. But England will not only focus on their title bid, they will also use their games in Qatar to drive broader social change.
That will not happen now as wearing a special OneLove armband was planned as before, following a late reversal by the Three Lions and seven other European countries caused by the threat of FIFA sanctions.
Prior to that decision, however, England had already confirmed they would take a knee in a separate stance against racism before each match of the 2022 World Cup finals.
MORE: Explain why there are protests against the 2022 World Cup in Qatar
Why is England kneeling at the World Cup?
England has been taking a knee since 2020 as part of a global anti-racism movement initially sparked by the death of African American George Floyd.
Premier League players did the same for over a year before a decision was made to save the gesture for specific moments in the 2022/23 season.
With a worldwide audience set to see them in Qatar, England have decided to get on their knees again to get the most out of their platform.
“It’s what we stand for as a team and has been for a long time,” Southgate told the media ahead of England’s Group B opener against Iran.
“We believe this is the biggest stage and we think it’s a powerful statement that will go around the world especially for young people to see that inclusion is very important.”
According to Sportsmail, the decision to take the knee in Qatar was made by the England players themselves.
🗣️ “We think it’s a strong statement.”
Gareth Southgate has confirmed England will take a knee ahead of tomorrow’s game against Iran pic.twitter.com/xDoXPtTtZE
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) November 20, 2022
England’s Knee Story
While England are on their knees at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, they stopped doing so during their last season in the UEFA Nations League.
Previously, the Three Lions had taken a knee before 33 straight games after returning to action after the COVID-19 lockdown that brought football to a standstill around the world.
In late 2021, Raheem Sterling highlighted how England’s commitment to the gesture underscored their desire for real change in society.
“How we took a stance as a team, I think the big question was, ‘Are we going to continue it through the Euros?'” Sterling said on BBC Radio 4.
“And I think a lot of times when racism comes up or something has happened, a lot in football and in the majority of society, we tend to address it for that period of time, for that five days or this week and then we brush it under the rug and [pretend] now everything is good.
“If the next scenario happens, we’ll leave again. But we as a country, players that have been in these scenarios face some of these racial abuses, on the whole we just want to keep emphasizing that.
“Yes, there were times when we sat down and said, ‘Is the message still going strong?’ and we said ‘yes,’ and as a group we tried to keep that going.”
Will Harry Kane wear the OneLove bracelet in Qatar?
As well as England’s decision to take the knee ahead of their games, the Three Lions had also initially stated their intention to support the OneLove bracelet initiative for Harry Kane to wear.
Kane had joined other captains at the tournament to voice his position on wearing the armband in support of the LGBTQ+ community and as a way of highlighting broader social injustice – although FIFA does not officially sanction its use.
Eight skippers, including Kane, and Premier League stars Christian Eriksen (Denmark) and Virgil van Dijk (Netherlands) were involved in the original planning.
Faced with the risk of being fined or even given a yellow card by FIFA, the football associations involved confirmed in a joint statement hours before the game between England and Iran kicked off that the gesture would not go ahead .
NEW: Climb down bracelet. The FA and other nations will not ask their captains to wear the ‘OneLove’ armband amid yellow card threats. pic.twitter.com/NVWPO9IlD0
— Steve Scott (@stevescott_itv) November 21, 2022
The late reversal has drawn criticism, both from England and the other countries involved for failing to implement their plans, and from FIFA for banning the armband in the first place.