Soccer-Czech Republic decide not to take a knee at Euros

(Reuters) - The Czech Republic team will not take a knee as an anti-racism gesture before the kick-off of their European Championship matches, they said on Sunday.

Instead, the team will gesture to the 'UEFA Respect' inscription on the left sleeve of their jerseys, as they did during their World Cup qualifier in Wales in March.

The gesture of taking a knee became a controversy before the Euros got underway when England were booed by some of their fans in two friendlies for kneeling, while Ireland were also jeered in Hungary.

The Czechs said they wanted to "announce their position in advance" before their Group D match against England on June 22.

"We want to fully concentrate on football and the sports side of things," head coach Jaroslav Silhavy said in a statement.

"I understand that these are important topics for the whole of society, and my team and I obviously condemn any and all displays of racism.

"But we talked this through back in March, agreed on our own show of support for the fight against racism, and we do not intend to change anything about that decision."

Croatia, who play England later on Sunday, are not expected to take the knee either. Scotland, who host the Czechs on Monday, said they would join in the gesture only at the game against England at Wembley on Friday, out of solidarity.

The Czech Football Association's president Petr Fousek said he "wholeheartedly" agreed with the team's decision.

"I believe every national team ought to be free to express themselves as they see fit," Fousek said.

"The UEFA Respect programme encompasses all the topics related to the fight against racism and any and all displays of discrimination that we want to emphasise."

(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; editing by Clare Fallon)

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