This year’s European Championship has seen the England Football Team capture the hearts of the nation, just as they did in the 2018 World Cup. Gareth Southgate has led his side to consecutive semi-finals in major tournaments, the first time they have done so since 1968.

It would be easy for the players to become lost in the excitement and start to lose focus, but despite the buzz surrounding them, their performances have not waned. It is also important to note that whilst their performances have remained consistent, so have their beliefs.

In the opening game of the tournament against Croatia, and in consecutive fixtures, England players have displayed their unity with the Black Lives Matter movement by taking the knee. This has sparked some debate.

In the opening fixture, small pockets of fans booed the actions of the England team, but were soon drowned out by “applause and cheering“. Manager Gareth Southgate openly opposed the fans who were critical of his team’s actions stating that his players were “more determined than ever” to take part in the anti-racism gesture, and that they were “sick” of talking about potential consequences of doing so.

Racism has no place in sport.

For years now there have been movements to reaffirm the inclusivity of football, such as “Show Racism the Red Card” and the “Rainbow Laces” campaign. In fact, the Premier League “proudly stand alongside Stonewall in promoting equality and diversity.”

Therefore, the commitment that the England side has displayed towards taking the knee, despite the potential distraction that comes with their success, only reinforces their determination to stamp racism out of football altogether.

It speaks volumes that Raheem Sterling, a Jamaican-born England player, scored the winning goal against Croatia and important goals against Czech Republic and Germany throughout this tournament, with many tipping him to be in the running for player of the tournament.

Raheem Sterling has repeatedly spoken about the abuse that he has suffered for his skin colour, and continually sets an example for young footballers, both through his performances and his words.

Sadly, it seems that there is still a considerable way to go if racism is going to be stamped out of the beautiful game permanently, but this England side can certainly contribute to this by reaffirming their beliefs.

By taking the knee and speaking publicly about the need for inclusivity and diversity in sport, this younger generation of England players can set the precedent for future generations and reiterate the ideal values of what football should be.

Togetherness is key to success, whether that be winning silverware, or achieving a goal.

This England side not only shows unity on the pitch, but also in their beliefs.