Southgate intends to send skipper Harry Kane out for the first Group B fixture against Iran today wearing the OneLove rainbow armband to promote diversity and inclusion, despite the head of football’s world governing body Gianni Infantino repeatedly calling for non-football matters to be left alone by teams.
But for Southgate the key today is to excite fans again, following runs to a European Championship final and World Cup semi-final, as the cost of living crisis kicks in and winter begins back home.
The England boss said: ‘Our challenge is to give our supporters a tournament that’s memorable. We’ve taken them on fantastic journeys in our last two tournaments.
‘Our country is going through a difficult spell, we’re in the middle of an economic recession and that has been difficult for a lot of our people and we want them to enjoy our football and have a journey with the team that brings real happiness.’
Southgate hoped ‘everything will be resolved before the game’ in regard to talks with Fifa over the armband while, speaking on the eve of the fixture, Tottenham striker Kane said: ‘I feel we’ve made it clear we want to wear the armband, I know the FA are talking to Fifa and I’m sure by game-time we’ll have their decision.’
Southgate also revealed England would take the knee in a visual statement about ‘inclusivity’ at Doha’s Khalifa International Stadium today, with their first opponents Iran currently in turmoil due to anti-government protests and civil unrest.
‘We have discussed taking the knee,’ Southgate added. ‘We feel we should. It’s what we stand for as a team and have done for a long period of time.
‘We think it’s a strong statement that will go around the world for young people, in particular, to see that inclusivity is important.’
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