Gareth Southgate expressed his dismay on Saturday night that sections of a crowd made up of schoolchildren booed the England team when taking the knee at Ferenc Puskas Stadium in Budapest.
It was the same stadium where England players faced racist abuse last year as England crashed out to a 1-0 defeat in their UEFA Nations League opener.
Hungary were supposed to play behind closed doors as punishment for racist and homophobic chanting at Euro 2020, but a little-known UEFA regulation allowed 30,000 children to watch the game for free accompanied by 3,000 adults.
And while the anthems were observed impeccably, and there were good-natured mockery as England warmed up, as they took the knee to express the team’s solidarity over the racial abuse that the black players suffered, there was a significant minority who booed and mocked.
Southgate said: “I was very surprised. I thought that was why we did it, to try to educate. I think young people can only be influenced by old people.
“The vibe when we got to the stadium, there were kids lining the streets, they were really friendly, they were waving at us when we were walking out, there were pantomime boos when the team came out to s’ warming up was different with taking that knee. It sounded like a legacy thought to me. And I still hear that in our stadiums too.
“That’s why we do it, that’s why we continue to take this position and we will continue to do so. On a day like today, when we haven’t won the game and we haven’t played well enough, it’s probably better for me to accept criticism than to talk about it.
Hungarian fans booed the England team for taking the knee in their Nations League game
More than 30,000 spectators were able to attend Saturday, mostly children, in Budapest
Harry Kane (left) and Mason Mount take the knee before kick-off but boos could be heard
But Southgate also wondered how a noisy crowd of more than 30,000 people, which created a huge uproar, complied with a punishment for discriminatory behavior. “It’s hard to understand how that lines up with the ruling,” he said.
“It requires some thought.”
Under Article 73 of UEFA’s disciplinary regulations, children up to the age of 14 from schools and/or football academies may be invited to a match free of charge, provided they are accompanied by ‘an adult.
Speaking on Friday, Southgate said he was “surprised” that so many spectators were allowed to attend.
Southgate has revealed England will take advantage of the loophole themselves when they face Italy behind closed doors at Molineux on June 11.
The Three Lions were punished for the troubles in the Euro 2020 final, when the two countries met at Wembley.
“We showed what we think about these issues, in terms of racism and unacceptability,” the Three Lions boss said.
“I hope the youngsters at the stadium will understand why this opportunity has arisen and in some ways maybe it will be part of educating the next generation.”
England boss Gareth Southgate said the boos proved why his side continued to kneel, hoping they could educate young supporters.
England faced Hungary in the Nations League in Budapest on Saturday and lost 1-0
“Each generation that passes will bring more tolerance and we have the same situation in our country, so we must continue to set a good example.
“It’s okay, the youngsters will enjoy the game and get a bigger message out of it.”
Southgate admitted that allowing children and their guardians inside stadiums that were supposed to be closed due to fan behavior was a ‘grey area’.
“We also invite children to Molineux,” he added. “Players want to play in front of full stadiums, but it’s up to UEFA to decide if that’s appropriate.”
England players were the target of racist insults from the stands during their World Cup qualifier against Hungary last year – Raheem Sterling and his team-mates were bombarded with plastic cups
As things stand, UEFA have not commented on the boos in Hungary.
England lost their first game since the Euro 2020 final against Italy and their first game in 23 in 90 minutes.
It was the first time they had lost to Hungary since losing in the 1962 World Cup in a team that included Bobby Moore, Jimmy Greaves and Johnny Haynes.
“We are disappointed because if we want to be a team that reaches the final stages of a World Cup, these are the types of games we need to win.”
That leaves them unlikely to qualify for next year’s Nations League final with tougher games against Germany and Italy to come this week.
England players were the target of racist abuse from the stands during their World Cup qualifier against Hungary last year – after fears the match would be abandoned if marred by ugly scenes .
Raheem Sterling and Jude Bellingham were both the subject of monkey chants led by home support behind home goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi’s goal in the second half.
Sterling and his team-mates were also pelted with plastic cups after the Manchester City striker celebrated his second-half opener at the Ferenc Puskas Stadium.
The match had been placed on a ‘red list’ by FIFA due to a high risk of racist and homophobic abuse following the conduct of Hungarian fans during their Euro 2020 campaign last summer, which saw the team were handed a three-match stadium ban by UEFA after incidents against France and Portugal.
The third match of the ban is suspended for a probationary period of two years, with Hungary also instructed to display a banner promoting equality in future matches.
England duo Jadon Sancho (L) and Marcus Rashford (R) were among the players targeted with dastardly messages after missing penalties in the Euro 2020 final loss to Italy
In addition, the Hungarian Football Association was fined £85,500 for the number of infringements committed by supporters.
However, Hungary were able to play in front of 67,000 spectators at the Ferenc Puskas Stadium in Budapest against the Three Lions as they were playing in a competition organized by FIFA.
It was not the first time England players had been racially abused in an international game. The team threatened to walk off the pitch in a clash against Montenegro in 2019 following persistent dastardly chants aimed at Sterling and Danny Rose.
And following their Euro 2020 final loss to Italy on penalties, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka have all received racist messages on social media after missing crucial kicks.