The Three Lions manager will lead his side at the summer tournament with England looking to put 55 years of hurt behind them, starting with their first group game against Croatia at Wembley on Sunday.
Writing on the Players’ Tribune website in the wake of fans booing his players while taking the knee, he opened up on national identity, pride, and why today’s generation of stars feel a duty to protest against racial injustice.
Gareth Southgate has written an open letter to England fans ahead of Euro 2020 this summer
Southgate will lead out the Three Lions this summer in their European Championships bid
Addressing the online abuse received his players, Southgate writes: ‘There are genuine risks for our players online and I will always want to protect them, but I would never put rules on how or when they use their accounts while on England duty.
‘I trust them. They are mature enough to make their own decisions, do what’s right for their mental health and to keep being a force for good as we strive for a better society. The last 18 months have put added pressure on everyone. Venting that might have taken place while walking out of the stadium or in the pub has been transferred online. I get that.
‘However, there are things I will never understand. Why tag someone in on a conversation that is abusive? Why insult somebody for something as ridiculous as the colour of their skin? Why?
‘Unfortunately for those people, I have bad news. You’re on the losing side. It’s clear that we are heading for a much more tolerant society, and our lads will be a big part of that.’
Southgate claims football figures interact with the public on matters such as racial injustice
Three Lions players have been booed by some supporters for taking the knee in friendlies
Considering what it means to represent England Southgate, who earned 57 caps for his country, finished his letter: ‘Of course, my players and I will be judged on winning matches. Only one team can win the Euros. We have never done it before and we are desperate to. Believe me. But the reality is that the result is just a small part of it. When England play, there’s much more at stake than that.
‘It’s about how we conduct ourselves on and off the pitch, how we bring people together, how we inspire and unite, how we create memories that last beyond the 90 minutes. That last beyond the summer. That last for ever.
‘I think about all the young kids who will be watching this summer, filling out their first wallcharts. No matter what happens, I just hope that their parents, teachers and club managers will turn to them and say, “Look. That’s the way to represent your country. That’s what England is about. That is what’s possible.”
‘If we can do that, it will be a summer to be proud of.
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