Written by Staff Writer
As England take on Switzerland in an eagerly anticipated group play match on Saturday, the nation awaits the first moment in which a player takes a knee in protest during the national anthem.
The players of Arsenal, one of the biggest clubs in the UK, have already been in the spotlight over the past few weeks after it emerged that only a handful of players have knelt during the anthem in an apparent protest against the treatment of people of African descent.
“It was only a small number of the team, around four or five,” the London club’s statement confirmed.
In stark contrast, the performance of three members of the England squad in the 3-2 win over Spain in September underlined the many players feel that they need to demonstrate how they feel over the issue.
Tottenham and England striker Harry Kane chose to stand and join the players arm-in-arm, while Gary Cahill and John Stones were pictured standing with their arms draped around each other.
Manchester City star Sergio Aguero, captain for Argentina at the World Cup, clearly demonstrated how he felt with his arm upraised as well.
The controversy around one particular member of the England squad, the Tottenham midfielder Dele Alli, can be considered the most significant and controversial because he has been a key member of the team and a forward who plays a key role for Spurs.
Critics suggested Alli’s refusal to stand and lock arms was an overtly political act, in contrast to the actions of John Stones, who simply stood and linked arms with his team mates.
Though it remains unclear how he feels about race or what he means by his actions, the controversy has generated a firestorm of commentary and debate.
In recent days, the response to Alli’s stance has been a series of posts on social media in which he has seemed to acknowledge, at least in part, the situation he’s found himself in and the tensions being played out.
“If I could do this again I wouldn’t have taken a knee, but I will remain strong,” he said in a statement on social media.
Though it remains to be seen whether this will prove to be an isolated incident, England will certainly be happy to avoid any lingering specter of racial controversy when it takes on Switzerland on Saturday.