Gareth Southgate has commented on Hungary fans booing the England players taking the knee before their Nations League clash in a mostly empty stadium.
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“The first thing is, that’s why we do it; To try to educate people around the world,” said Southgate of his squad all taking the knee. “I have no idea why people would choose to boo that gesture. I think very often the young people especially they can’t know why they’re doing it so they’re being influenced by older adults.”
Despite Hungary serving a stadium ban for their fans racial abuse of England players at Euro 2020, tens of thousands of under 14’s are allowed to attend for free and will do so, with their guardians. And when England took the knee prior to kick-off, boos rang out around the Puskas Arena.
“The UEFA decision that’s for other people to decide. We’ve made our stand as a team, everybody knows what we believe and what we stand for,” Southgate added. Making his stance clear. “I think tonight’s a night where I’ve got to focus on the football. When you lose you can’t be talking too much about other areas because I think that would be a lack of responsibility for the result.”
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Focusing on the football, Southgate was more pragmatic as his side lost within 90 minutes for the first time in 22 matches, falling 1-0 to a Dominik Szoboszlai penalty midway through the second-half. “I don’t think we did enough to win the game,” said the England manager.
“I think a draw would have been a fair outcome, we had enough possession, we weren’t incisive around the box.”
Southgate wasn’t convinced about the decision to award Hungary a penalty for Reece James’ foul. “The actual result hinges on a decision which I think is harsh but probably wasn’t going to be overturned. He’s just gone across to get his body between him and the ball, the forward makes a meal of it,” but as always, he was pragmatic about the decision. “Look, away from home sometimes you’re gonna get those calls.”
As for blaming any of the players, Southgate didn’t elaborate but it seemed clear he was as frustrated as some of players. “I don’t want to be too harsh on them. These are games that we need to learn from.”
On his squad’s reaction, given their ambitions, he said: “they’re bitterly disappointed because we want to keep winning matches. If we’re gonna be a team right at the top tier of football we’ve got to come here and win.”
Finally, Southgate looked forward to the Germany game. “We want those challenges. We know that we’ve got a good team with a some steps still to go. We’ve learned a lot about some individual players tonight and we’ve learned a lot about a different tactical challenge. And I’ve got to make sure we keep the players on track and calm and ready for the game on Tuesday.”