‘I won’t tell anyone what to do’: Russia boss Cherchesov reacts to fans booing Belgium players taking a knee
Russia manager Stanislav Cherchesov says it isn’t his place to tell fans not to boo players taking a knee, after sections of the stadium in St. Petersburg were heard jeering when Belgian players performed the gesture.
A strong performance by the experienced Belgians saw them earn a 3-0 win against Russia at Krestovsky Stadium in their Euro 2020 Group B opening game on Saturday night.
Before the game kicked off, sections of the 26,000-strong crowd booed as Belgian players dropped to one knee in a show of support linked to the Black Lives Matter movement.
The jeers drew grumbling from members of the Western press and criticism from footballing anti-discrimination group FARE.
However, when asked about the incident at a press conference as his team prepare to face Finland in St. Petersburg on Wednesday, Russia manager Cherchesov said he would not dish out advice to fans.
“To be honest, I didn’t even hear it, because when you’re focused on the game, you don’t hear,” he said.
“Everyone has their own choice. This [question] doesn’t concern the actual match… If you have questions about the match, tactics, I can answer.
“I can only answer for myself. Everyone has their own choice, I don’t want to advise anyone [what to do].”
Cherchesov’s approach comes in stark contrast to the likes of England manager Gareth Southgate, who has been vocal in urging Three Lions fans not to boo players performing the gesture.
The England team were jeered when they took a knee during two warm-up games for Euro 2020, while a smattering of boos were also heard at Wembley during their Group D game against Croatia on Sunday before being drowned out by cheers.
A small protest was seen outside Wembley before the match, including banners reading ‘Don’t kneel for Marxism’ – a reference to the radical left-wing political views held by some elements of the BLM movement.
On the eve of the game against Croatia, the English FA had also issued a desperate plea to fans not to boo players when they carry out the gesture.
Regarding whether the scenes in St. Petersburg could be repeated when Russia face Finland on Wednesday, Finnish manager Markku Kanerva said during his press conference on Tuesday that it would be up to his players to decide whether they take a knee or not.
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Appearing in their first major tournament finals, the Finns were considered the group underdogs but picked up a shock win against Denmark in Copenhagen in their opening game, in a match affected by the collapse of Danish midfielder Christian Eriksen towards the end of the first half.
When asked for his thoughts on the Finns, Russia boss Cherchesov said the result in Copenhagen was a surprise, but that Russia knew they were up against strong opposition and that the result would likely be decisive for his team’s chances of going beyond the group stage.
“There’s the clear understanding that this match will decide a lot for us. For me that makes it easier. I’m absolutely calm, in the right working mood. We understand everything.
“The result in the first game was a bit of a surprise, but not the way the Finns approached the game. Finland is a strong team, they demonstrated that. It’s a tough opponent, but we knew that from the start.”
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Appearing alongside Cherchesov, Russia defender Georgy Zhikiya pointed to Finland forward Teemu Pukki – who has achieved cult hero status at club team Norwich City – as a danger man.
Pukki scored 26 times in 41 league games in England’s second-tier Championship last season as he fired Norwich back into the Premier League.
Russia and Finland kick off their Group B game at 16:00 local time on Wednesday.