England soccer team again booed by fans for taking a knee

England's and Romania's players take a knee before the international friendly soccer match between England and Romania in Middlesbrough, England, Sunday, June 6, 2021. (Paul Ellis, Pool via AP)

MIDDLESBROUGH, England -- Captaining England for the first time on Sunday, Marcus Rashford heard boos from home fans when leading his team in taking a knee before a warm-up game against Romania ahead of the European Championship.

Rashford was cheered around the stadium in Middlesbrough when he scored the 68th-minute penalty that settled a 1-0 victory.

The insistence of some England fans to boo their players for making the anti-racism gesture has been as strong a feature of the team's Euro 2020 preparations in the northeast town this week as the pair of 1-0 wins.

The scattered disapproval was quickly countered by other fans applauding the England team, which had six Black players on Sunday including Rashford. The same scene played out Wednesday before England played Austria.

"It's something that we can't control," Rashford told British broadcaster ITV. "For us, we believe it's the right thing to do so we're going to continue."

England coach Gareth Southgate said ahead of Sunday's game the booing was a "very strange response" and the players will continue taking a knee at Euro 2020.

England will play each of its three group-stage games at Wembley Stadium in London where fans have not been able to watch the national team since 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The two games in Middlesbrough were the first chances fans had to attend England games since taking a knee became routine ahead of Premier League games one year ago. Players have supported calls to eradicate racial injustice in society following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Rashford was given the captaincy as the most experienced international player aged just 23 in an experimental starting lineup, with Southgate describing it as "a good opportunity for him to show some leadership."

The Manchester United forward calmly outwitted Romania goalkeeper Florin Nita with a slow run-up to score with a spot-kick awarded for a foul on Jack Grealish.

Three minutes after Rashford was substituted, a second penalty was given and taken by the player now wearing the captain's armband. Jordan Henderson's kick was saved by Nita diving to his right.

England twice struck the woodwork in the first half, from Dominic Calvert-Lewin's header and Jadon Sancho's shot.

Southgate's team begins in Euro 2020 next Sunday against Croatia in Group D.

In other routine wins for Euro 2020 teams, the Netherlands beat Georgia 3-0, Denmark won 2-0 against Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Scotland managed only a 1-0 win against a Luxembourg team reduced to 10 men before halftime.

Austria and Slovakia drew 0-0 in one of two matches between teams both playing in Euro 2020, which kicks off Friday.

Top-ranked Belgium was facing Croatia, the 2018 World Cup beaten finalist, in the late game.

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