England applauded for taking a knee before World Cup opener

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England were applauded for taking a knee at the start of their World Cup Group B opener against Iran at the Khalifa International Stadium on Monday.

Three Lions manager Gareth Southgate confirmed in his pre-match press conference a day earlier that England had decided to perform the gesture at the World Cup.

Kneeling before a game was initially adopted on a regular basis in the Premier League following the death of George Floyd in the United States back in 2020.

Despite it being a show of solidarity against discrimination, it was an initiative that was not universally applauded, with several Premier League clubs jeered for taking part.

It was scrapped as a regular feature ahead of this season, with the Premier League instead announcing the gesture would be reserved for special occasions.

Reports had suggested England players were discussing whether to kneel during Qatar 2022, and Southgate confirmed on Sunday that the squad came to an agreement.

England made their stance during the noisy countdown to kick-off, with the gesture widely applauded some the England fans in the stadium.

However, England captain Harry Kane did not wear the OneLove armband.

Kane and captains from six other nations were initially due to wear the armband at the tournament to promote "inclusion and send a message against discrimination of any kind".

But the Football Association confirmed before Monday's game that they had bowed to pressure from FIFA, who "made it very clear that it will impose sporting sanctions if our captains wear the armbands on the field of play".

A few minutes before, Iran players refused to sing their national anthem, which was also widely jeered by their supporters.

Iran's participation at the tournament comes amid social unrest in Iran following the death of 22-year-old woman Mahsa Amini in police custody two months ago.

As many as 15,000 people have been arrested in the country for protesting against the regime's oppression of women, and Iran's refusal to sing has been perceived as an act of solidarity.

In September, Iran covered up their national symbols before a friendly against Senegal in what was also seen as an act of defiance.