England’s players have been berated again for taking the knee as Poland star Robert Lewandowski risked the fury of his own supporters after he pointed to the ‘Respect’ symbol during a chorus of boos.
The talismanic striker, 33, made the gesture while furious Polish fans made their feelings heard at Warsaw’s Stadion Narodowy before England and Poland’s World Cup qualifier kicked off.
Undaunted by the jeering crowd, England’s players continued to take the knee as their public display of protest continues.
In addition to targeting the Three Lions’ anti-racism protest, ‘God Save The Queen’ was nearly drowned out by the 60,000 whistling supporters in attendance.
It was the second time the Three Lions faced boos for taking the knee in the last week, having been targeted by a hostile Hungarian crowd in similar circumstances in Budapest on Thursday, September 2.
Despite a 4-0 victory, England’s win was tarnished by ugly scenes as missiles, including cans of beer, were thrown onto the pitch while there were also claims of racist chants towards black players which will be investigated by Fifa.
Raheem Sterling and Jude Bellingham were targeted by monkey chants in Budapest, while Sterling was pelted by a number of plastic cups thrown from a section of the home crowd after scoring the first goal.
Undaunted by the 60,000 whistling supporters in Warsaw’s Stadion Narodowy, England’s players continued to take the knee as their public display of protest continues
Polish fans made their feelings heard as England’s Kyle Walker (left), Harry Maguire and Declan Rice take the knee at Warsaw’s Stadion Narodowy before England and Poland’s World Cup qualifier kicked off
Poland star Robert Lewandowski, 33, risked the fury of his own fans after he pointed to the ‘Respect’ symbol during a chorus of boos
Lewandowski and his players did not take the knee alongside England, but instead chose to point to UEFA’s ‘Respect’ symbol on his left arm.
Poland’s goalkeeper and former Arsenal stopper Wojciech Szczęsny was also pictured pleading with fans to stop jeering during the rendition of the national anthem.
Gareth Southgate’s team were left heartbroken right at the death last night, as substitute Damian Szymanski headed in from close range in the 92nd minute after Harry Kane’s 30-yard thunderbolt had opened the scoring.
Both sets of players were dragged into a furious scuffle after the half-time whistle was blown in their World Cup qualifier – with the flashpoint seemingly caused by Kamil Glik grabbing Kyle Walker’s throat.
Both Glik and Harry Maguire were shown yellow cards after the row, and footage quickly surfaced showing the former bizarrely pinching Walker’s neck at a free-kick, leading to the reaction from his Three Lions team-mates.
The pair were seen locked in a heated exchange just after the start of the break, with both aiming gestures at each other and clearly irked.
The jeering crowd of 60,000 Polish fans packed into the Stadion Narodowy booed the England players taking the knee
Lewandowski and his players did not take the knee alongside England, but instead chose to point to UEFA’s ‘Respect’ symbol on his left arm. Above: The teams line up ahead of kickoff
Poland fans hold up a placard urging England and Manchester City star Raheem Sterling ‘to stop diving’
Kamil Glik grabbing Kyle Walker’s neck sparked a half-time brawl between England and Poland
Glik and Harry Maguire exchanged stern words before referee Daniel Siebert had stepped in
The two players were shown a yellow card by the referee, despite pleading their innocence
Poland’s players had previously refused plans to take the knee when the two sides previously met at Wembley in March.
The head of Polish football and UEFA executive, Zbigniew Boniek, has been an ardent critic of ‘populist’ symbol.
Speaking after his players refused to take the knee earlier this year, Boniek said: ‘This is clear populism because nothing is done because of it.
‘Footballers sometimes kneel and if you’d ask some of them why they’re kneeling, they wouldn’t be able to tell you why.’
Footballers first began taking the knee last June after the death of George Floyd and an outpouring of anti-racist demonstrations across the western world.
FIFA have launched a probe into a number of vile incidents during England’s win in Budapest last Thursday (pictured: Raheem Sterling being targeted by cups after opening the scoring)
Declan Rice, John Stones and Jack Grealish react after a flare is thrown on to the pitch by Hungary fans
It also came amid a slew of racist incidents in the sport, including regular social media abuse of black players.
A Kick It Out report in April showed abuse of footballers online had skyrocketed during lockdown.
Manchester United carried out its own survey over a 17-month period between September 2019 and February 2021, which revealed a 350 per cent increase in online abuse.
The Three Lions faced an unfriendly reception from crowds, including thousands of England supporters, for their symbolic anti-racism gesture throughout the summer and Euro 2020.
Most recently, monkey chants were made and cups containing beer were thrown at Raheem Sterling and Jude Bellingham during England’s 4-0 victory over Hungary in Budapest last Thursday.
The action of Hungarian fans who booed England’s players received a ringing endorsement by president Victor Orban – who made outspoken remarks praising fans’ abuse of Republic of Ireland players at an international friendly in June.
‘If you’re a guest in a country then understand its culture and do not provoke it,’ Orban told a press conference the day after the game.
‘Do not provoke the host… We can only see this gesture system from our cultural vantage point as unintelligible, as provocation.
England manager Gareth Southgate previously praised his side for taking a stand against racism, but warned that booing of taking the knee could be construed as ‘criticism’ of the team’s black players
England manager Gareth Southgate previously praised his side for taking a stand against racism, but warned that booing of taking the knee could be construed as ‘criticism’ of the team’s black players.
He told The Players Tribune: ‘I have never believed that we should just stick to football.
‘I know my voice carries weight, not because of who I am but because of the position that I hold.
‘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.’
Southgate also disagreed with critics who argue taking a knee is ‘politicising’ the sport.
He said: ‘I think we have got a situation where some people seem to think it is a political stand that they don’t agree with.
‘That’s not the reason the players are doing it. We are supporting each other.’