England discussing anti-racism gesture, says manager Southgate

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - International Friendly - England v Republic of Ireland - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - November 12, 2020 England manager Gareth Southgate after the match Pool via REUTERS/Nick Potts

(Reuters) - England's leadership team will discuss whether to take a knee as an anti-racism gesture before Thursday's 2022 World Cup qualifier against San Marino, manager Gareth Southgate said.

The pre-match gesture has been a part of England's Premier League and lower-tier English Football League games since football resumed after the COVID-19 shutdown last June.

However, some within the game have said the gesture is merely symbolic and no longer carries any weight, while Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha recently said taking a knee before matches was "degrading".

"We'll be unified on whatever we do and if there's any doubt I think we would take the knee," Southgate said.

"I spoke with the leadership team and asked them to talk to the rest because I think it's a good process to hear each other's views.

"That's part of how we educate ourselves in all of these different matters."

Southgate said he understood Zaha's concerns about taking a knee.

"When I listened to Zaha's comments, I thought he spoke really well, I totally understood why he felt that wasn't enough and that it seems to be just part of the background," he added.

"The debate around whether we should take the knee or not or walk off a pitch or not ... they're slightly peripheral things. The core problems are racism and discrimination. We've got to address the deeper issues as much as make a symbolic gesture."

(Reporting by Arvind Sriram in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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