Monday, October 18, 2021

Taking the knee ‘losing a bit of strength’, says Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso

Marcos Alonso says he has stopped taking the knee before matches this season because he feels the power of the action has been diluted. The Chelsea wing-back has chosen instead to stand and point at the anti-racism message on the sleeve of his shirt.

Alonso was asked to explain his thinking after Chelsea’s 3-0 win at Tottenham on Sunday and, although he did not go into detail, he made clear he believes there is a better way to make the point than by kneeling.

“I just prefer to do it this way,” Alonso said. “It’s my way to do it. I think it’s another way. And maybe I think it’s losing a bit of strength the other way. So I just prefer to do it this way and to show I am fully supportive of fighting against racism.

“I am fully against racism and I’m against every type of discrimination. I just prefer to put my finger to the badge where it says: ‘No to racism’, like they do in some other sports and football in other countries. I prefer to do it this way and, of course, to say very clearly that I am against racism and I respect everybody.”

The Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha stopped taking the knee in March because he felt it was “degrading”, his parents having taught him to stand tall and be proud of being black. Zaha has argued that the action has become more of a ritual, its meaning increasingly lost. Moreover, he does not feel it has had the desired impact in changing behaviours.

Alonso, who did take the knee last season as part of the drive to raise awareness of racial discrimination and social injustice, said that he had not discussed his stance with his teammates.

“We haven’t talked about it,” Alonso said. “We are in the changing room and we are like a family. I have a very good relationship with everyone. I love everyone and, up to now, we haven’t talked about it. I don’t think there is a need to but, of course, if I have to speak to anyone, I will say the same that I just told you and I don’t think there will be any problems. For now, I prefer to point to the sleeve and that’s what I will do.”

Taking the knee has been wrongly construed by some matchgoing fans as a political gesture and it has been booed inside English stadiums, including Wembley before England games at Euro 2020. It was also booed before the national team played in Hungary and Poland this month. The England manager, Gareth Southgate, has repeatedly said the meaning behind the action could not be clearer – and that it has nothing to do with politics.

Alonso was booed on Sunday, as he tends to be by Spurs supporters, although it was only fuel for him, as he and Chelsea maintained their excellent start. Alonso has been an ever-present, keeping Ben Chilwell on the sidelines, and Chelsea are unbeaten and joint-top of the Premier League with Liverpool. They face Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

“To be booed when you play away – it’s music to my ears,” Alonso said. “It might be because I have scored a few goals against them [Spurs] and I think they maybe have these memories in their head when I touch the ball. I love it and even more when we get the three points and we play like we did.”

Is it a bad idea for opposition fans to jeer Alonso? “I think during the game, they were more and more quiet and we were playing better and better, so I don’t know,” he replied, with a smile.
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