The captain of the Italian football team said its players had not yet decided whether they would take the knee before their Euro 2020 game against Austria at Wembley Stadium on Saturday.
Speaking during a press conference on Friday night, Leonardo Bonucci said: “When we return to the hotel, we will all decide together what to do as a team. If the request is made, we will talk about it … If there is the idea and desire to make a gesture against racism.”
His comments came after the Italian daily Corriere della Sera reported earlier on Friday that neither Italy nor Austria had notified Uefa and the game’s referee that their players would be taking the knee before the match. A request must be made two days before a game, the newspaper said. A decision not to make the symbolic gesture against racism was reportedly aimed at avoiding a repeat of what happened before Italy played Wales in Rome on Sunday, when five Italian players took the knee but others stood.
Italy coach Roberto Mancini said: “The most important thing for me is liberty.” Meanwhile, David Alaba, the captain of Austria, said on Friday night that the team would take the knee.
The anti-racism gesture has become prominent in sport and Black Lives Matter protests, especially those that followed the murder of George Floyd last year.
The England team has led the way in taking the knee throughout the European football championship, which was rescheduled from 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, although the gesture has divided fans.
It has also divided European teams, with some squads, or individual players, taking the knee and others not. Some people have argued that the symbol is political and does not bring about meaningful change in tackling racism.
The Italian players who refrained from making the gesture before the game against Wales were strongly criticised. Enrico Letta, the former prime minister, said: “Watching on Sunday, with all the Wales players kneeling and only [five] of the Italian players doing it, it was not a good image.”
Amid the criticisms, Paolo Corbi, the Italy team’s communication chief, said: “On behalf of the entire squad, we reaffirm that we are against all forms of racism. Adhering or not to a form of protest, a symbolic one at that, does not mean ignoring the fight against racism.”