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Football Focus: 'Booing players taking a knee was not racist'

Last updated on: December 07, 2020 15:01 IST
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Millwall

IMAGE: Ryan Leonard of Millwall kneeling for black lives matter. Photograph: Jacques Feeney/Getty Images

Millwall's official fan club has said supporters who booed players taking a knee before their match at home to Derby County on Saturday were not motivated by racism.

Fans of the London club were condemned by the Football Association (FA), Kick it Out -- a long-running campaign to rid the English game of racism -- and many others after the incident at Saturday's Championship (second-tier) match.

 

Millwall said they were "dismayed and saddened" by the booing and that the club's players would continue to take a knee before matches "to support the drive for change, not just in football but in society generally".

A statement from the Millwall Supporters' Club on Sunday, however, said the boos were aimed at the 'Black Lives Matter' (BLM) organisation, which it said held "extreme political views".

"We fervently believe that the motives of those behind the booing were not racist," the Supporters' club said in a statement.

"However, at a time of heightened awareness and with the country watching, the choice of those individuals was always going to damage their club and be perceived by the media as racist.

"Anyone who believes it was a racist act should read the views of those who booed and see they were doing it in reaction to the war memorials and statues of (Winston) Churchill defaced by the BLM organisation and the extreme political views they hold and for which ‘taking the knee’ is associated with."

Players in England have been taking a knee before matches since June in support of the BLM movement, which spread around the world following protests over the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis in May.

The Premier League and Football League have since linked the kneeling gesture to their own anti-racism campaigns, including "No Room for Racism".

"These same fans have never booed the Kick It Out campaigns on our pitch or the huge work of the Millwall Community Trust and its many anti-racism campaigns," added the supporters' club.

However, it backed calls for steps to deal with racism and said "the action needed was not to boo the gesture."

Junior Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly said on Monday that while he had "concerns and criticisms" about BLM as an organisation, he backed kneeling in support of those fighting against racism.

"It is absolutely wrong for football fans to boo players, or indeed anybody else doing so," he told the BBC.

Kick It Out Chairman Sanjay Bhandari said the attempt to portray the booing as a "political disagreement" with BLM was "complete and utter nonsense".

"Every time there is greater public focus on the fight against racial discrimination, there is always a backlash," he said. "Racists rarely admit they are racists -- they try to hide their backlash under a seemingly respectable cloak."

Fans also booed the taking of the knee at Colchester United's League Two (fourth-tier) match at home to Grimsby Town on Saturday and the Essex club's owner and chairman Robbie Cowling said those who wanted to show opposition were not welcome at games.

"Maybe those that booed on Saturday might now understand what this gesture means to our club and will at the very least remain silent during future games whilst the players continue to take the knee before each kick-off," he wrote in a statement on the club's website.

"Alternatively, they should just stay away from our club because anyone that still wants to boo now that I have explained the purpose and importance of the taking of the knee is not welcome at our club."

Match schedule 'killing players' says Barca coach Koeman

Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman has made another complaint about the packed football calendar, which he says is seriously harming players and will lead to more injuries.

Barca host Juventus on Tuesday in their final Champions League group game, 72 hours after losing 2-1 at Cadiz which dealt another blow to their La Liga title hopes.

Koeman has already lost three key players to long-term injuries this season and now must cope without French winger Ousmane Dembele, who strained a hamstring in the Cadiz match.

“We are killing our players with these schedules,” Koeman told a news conference on Monday.

“It’s a real shame to lose another player to an injury and it’s another reason why I keep complaining about the match schedules, we are going to lose many more players to injuries.”

Having previously hit out at the number of games in a schedule further squeezed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Koeman took aim at Spanish soccer’s organisers for giving his side little rest after playing at Cadiz on Saturday night.

“If you have to play on Tuesday night, for the good of the Spanish teams you need to think about the timing of the match before. You get back home at 4.30 in the morning and then you have to play again on Tuesday,” he added.

“We have played five away matches this season and all of them have been late kick offs. It doesn’t help the Spanish teams.”

Barca and Juve have already qualified for the next stage of the Champions League and Koeman’s side need to avoid losing by at least two goals to clinch top spot in Group G.

Koeman is expected to rest many players but Lionel Messi, who missed the trips to Dynamo Kyiv and Ferencvaros, is set to return for what would be his first match against Cristiano Ronaldo since the Portuguese left Real Madrid for Juve in 2018.

Koeman is relishing seeing the pair, who have been named world player of the year a combined 11 times, face off again.

“I think it is not nice to say who is better, because both are incredible,” he said. “I admire both players because they give and they gave us so many nice evenings with great goals and won great titles. Let’s hope we can enjoy them tomorrow.”

Bayern defender Martinez out for rest of year with injury

Bayern Munich's defensive problems took a turn for the worse on Monday when Spaniard Javi Martinez was ruled out for the rest of the year with a thigh muscle injury, the German champions said.

Martinez injured a left thigh muscle in the 3-3 draw against RB Leipzig on Saturday and will not play in their four remaining games this season in the Bundesliga and Champions League.

The Bavarians are struggling with a leaky defence, having conceded 16 goals in 10 league games so far.

Jerome Boateng was also injured in the Leipzig game while fellow centre back Niklas Suele has been benched in recent weeks for a lack of form.

The German champions have been dropping points in recent weeks, managing one win in their last three league games and letting in five goals in the process.

Saturday's draw at home to Leipzig left them just one point ahead of second-placed Bayer Leverkusen.

Bayern, who won five titles in 2020, have already qualified for the Champions League knockout stage next year.

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