A sticking point in the battle against racism: Arsenal take the knee, Slavia Praha standing
Updated: April 18, 2021 10:05:34 AM
Arsenal’s Alexandre Lacazette walked towards the center, took a knee and looked at the faces of the Slavia Praha players just before the kick-off of the second leg of their Europa League quarter-final game. A team that takes a knee before a football game, an anti-racist move in the tradition of the Black Lives Matter movement, is nothing new.
But Lacazette, joined by other players, was staring at a team which chose to run and which recently banned a player by UEFA for alleged racism. For the game, Slavia Praha lined up all the white players in the starting XI. London-based Arsenal won the away game 4-0 (5-1 overall), with French striker Lacazette scoring twice. The image of a kneeling Lacazette has become another rallying point in the fight against racism.
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Why did Arsenal take a knee?
In the end, Arsenal taking the knee before the game was premeditated. “(The players) have asked me and the club that they want to take this initiative,” manager Mikel Arteta said, according to The Guardian.
âThey had the right reasons for it, so the club were very supportive. I think it was a good gesture. We spoke with the club to make sure we could follow the UEFA rulesâ¦ I have to say that UEFA has been very supportive as well. “
It is assumed that Lacazette and the Arsenal players made the decision due to a racist incident which marred Slavia Praha’s Europa League draw against Rangers last month. Praha defender Ondrej Kudela covered his mouth as he allegedly used a racist insult to Rangers midfielder Glen Kamara, a former Arsenal player. UEFA, the governing body, following an investigation, has sentenced the Czech player to a 10-match ban, the minimum penalty for a player convicted of racist abuse.
What was Slavia Praha’s reaction to a player’s ban?
Prague-based club president Jaroslav Tvrdik issued a statement.
âWe respect the decision. In any case, Ondrej Kudela should not have approached the opposition player, âthe statement read. âI deeply regret it and apologize to Glen Kamara for a situation which has clearly caused distress to him and his team-mates, as well as to everyone associated with Slavia and Rangers. I am taking positive measures to prevent such a situation from happening again in our club. “
However, a senior Czech official, in light of the incident, accused UEFA of “hypocrisy” and claimed that non-black players would now be “discriminated against”.
âI note that racism is neither proven nor alleged. Nevertheless, you have decided on a completely new punishment for a player who did not harm anyone and who only verbally offended – according to his statement – his opponent â, reads a statement from Vratislav Mynar, who heads the cabinet of the President of the Republic, as reported by The Guardian.
âAll this just to meet the perverted expectations of a small group of activists and a club unable to win on the pitch, all the more so by shouting empty and hurtful sentences about racismâ¦. Your efforts may instead lead to a situation where a person of color other than black will be discriminated against, oppressed and disenfranchised. That is why I also consider it necessary to oppose this procedure.
Did Arsenal break the rules?
Not at all. While some leagues like the Premier League have encouraged teams to take the knee before matches, UEFA has made it an optional exercise in continental club competitions, the Champions League and the Europa League.
Previously, in a Champions League group stage match at the Stade VÃ©lodrome between Marseille and Manchester City, the hosts remained standing while the England team took the knee before the game.
Is ‘taking a knee’ still a common form of protest in English football?
Not entirely. Last month, Crystal Palace star striker Wilfred Zaha refused to take a knee now. âThere’s no right or wrong decision, but for me personally I think deficiency has become part of the pre-game routine and for now it doesn’t matter whether we kneel or we we stood up, some of us continued to be abused. . As a society, I think we should be pushing for better education in schools, and social media companies should take stronger action against people who abuse others online – not just footballers, âZaha said in a statement.
Former Arsenal striker and French striker Thierry Henry left social media last month after alleging that companies had not done enough to curb racist abuse emitted online. The BBC reported that the Queens Park Rangers championship team last September made the decision to stop kneeling before matches because the ‘message was lost’.