Robert Lewandowski points to ‘Respect’ symbol on shirt as fans boo England players taking a knee

England’s players have been berated again for taking the knee as Poland star Robert Lewandowski risked the fury of his own supporters after he pointed to the ‘Respect’ symbol during a chorus of boos.

The talismanic striker, 33, made the gesture while furious Polish fans made their feelings heard at Warsaw’s Stadion Narodowy before England and Poland’s World Cup qualifier kicked off.

Undaunted by the jeering crowd, England’s players continued to take the knee as their public display of protest continues.

In addition to targeting the Three Lions’ anti-racism protest, ‘God Save The Queen’ was nearly drowned out by the 60,000 whistling supporters in attendance.

It was the second time the Three Lions faced boos for taking the knee in the last week, having been targeted by a hostile Hungarian crowd in similar circumstances in Budapest on Thursday, September 2.

Gareth Southgate’s team were left heartbroken right at the death last night, as substitute Damian Szymanski headed in from close range in the 92nd minute after Harry Kane’s 30-yard thunderbolt had opened the scoring.

Undaunted by the 60,000 whistling supporters in Warsaw’s Stadion Narodowy, England’s players continued to take the knee as their public display of protest continues

Polish fans made their feelings heard as England's Kyle Walker (left), Harry Maguire and Declan Rice take the knee at Warsaw's Stadion Narodowy before England and Poland's World Cup qualifier kicked off

Polish fans made their feelings heard as England’s Kyle Walker (left), Harry Maguire and Declan Rice take the knee at Warsaw’s Stadion Narodowy before England and Poland’s World Cup qualifier kicked off

Lewandowski and his players did not take the knee alongside England, but instead chose to point to UEFA’s ‘Respect’ symbol on his left arm.

Poland’s goalkeeper and former Arsenal stopper Wojciech Szczęsny was also pictured pleading with fans to stop jeering during the rendition of the national anthem.

Poland’s players had previously refused plans to make the gesture when the two sides previously met at Wembley in March.

The head of Polish football and UEFA executive, Zbigniew Boniek, has been an ardent critic of ‘populist’ symbol.

Speaking after his players refused to take the knee earlier this year, Boniek said: ‘This is clear populism because nothing is done because of it.

‘Footballers sometimes kneel and if you’d ask some of them why they’re kneeling, they wouldn’t be able to tell you why.’

Footballers first began taking the knee last June after the death of George Floyd and an outpouring of anti-racist demonstrations across the western world.

Poland star Robert Lewandowski, 33, risked the fury of his own fans after he pointed to the 'Respect' symbol during a chorus of boos

Poland star Robert Lewandowski, 33, risked the fury of his own fans after he pointed to the ‘Respect’ symbol during a chorus of boos

It also came amid a slew of racist incidents in the sport, including regular social media abuse of black players.

A Kick It Out report in April showed abuse of footballers online had skyrocketed during lockdown.

Manchester United carried out its own survey over a 17-month period between September 2019 and February 2021, which revealed a 350 per cent increase in online abuse.

The Three Lions faced an unfriendly reception from crowds, including thousands of England supporters, for their symbolic anti-racism gesture throughout the summer and Euro 2020.

Most recently, monkey chants were made and cups containing beer were thrown at Raheem Sterling and Jude Bellingham during England’s 4-0 victory over Hungary in Budapest last Thursday.

The action of Hungarian fans who booed England’s players received a ringing endorsement by president Victor Orban – who made outspoken remarks praising fans’ abuse of Republic of Ireland players at an international friendly in June.

‘If you’re a guest in a country then understand its culture and do not provoke it,’ Orban told a press conference the day after the game.

‘Do not provoke the host… We can only see this gesture system from our cultural vantage point as unintelligible, as provocation.

England manager Gareth Southgate previously praised his side for taking a stand against racism, but warned that booing of taking the knee could be construed as 'criticism' of the team's black players

England manager Gareth Southgate previously praised his side for taking a stand against racism, but warned that booing of taking the knee could be construed as ‘criticism’ of the team’s black players

England manager Gareth Southgate previously praised his side for taking a stand against racism, but warned that booing of taking the knee could be construed as ‘criticism’ of the team’s black players.

He told The Players Tribune: ‘I have never believed that we should just stick to football.

‘I know my voice carries weight, not because of who I am but because of the position that I hold.

‘I have a responsibility to the wider community to use my voice, and so do the players.

‘It’s their duty to continue to interact with the public on matters such as equality, inclusivity and racial injustice, while using the power of their voices to help put debates on the table, raise awareness and educate.’

Southgate also disagreed with critics who argue taking a knee is ‘politicising’ the sport.

He said: ‘I think we have got a situation where some people seem to think it is a political stand that they don’t agree with.

‘That’s not the reason the players are doing it. We are supporting each other.’

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