The Czech national football team refused to kneel in support of the controversial Black Lives Matter movement before Tuesday’s match against Wales. The British media linked this to the recent affair of Slavia Prague defender Ondřej Kúdela, who was accused of racism, according to Echo24. However, the Czech team announced its “apolitical stance” on the matter of kneeling in advance.
The Czech team was the first not to kneel, but they have since been joined by Polish players as well.
“According to many, this is complete hypocrisy,” commented the pre-match performance of the Czech national team, for example, the Daily Record. The article also noted that the decision of the Czech team not to kneel has recently been seen on the pitch rather seldom.
As well as other media, it pointed out that the defender of Prague’s Slavia Ondřej Kúdela, who is being investigated due to an alleged racist remark, which was allegedly said almost two weeks ago in retaliation for the European League finals against the Scottish Glasgow Rangers team, after a player of the Scottish team Kemar Roofe fouled indiscriminately and badly injured the goalkeeper of Slavia.
“Ondřej Kúdela and his Czech Republic teammates opted not to take the knee amid a probe he was racist towards Rangers star Glen Kamara,“ wrote the tabloid The Sun after the match.
However, even before the match, the management of the national football team and the Football Association of the Czech Republic (FACR) jointly announced the apolitical position of the national team on some topics in the context of the events of recent days.
“This namely concerns the Black Lives Matter (BLM) initiative, in which some players kneel before football matches. To express their support for the fight against racism and other displays of discrimination, xenophobia, and antisemitism, the Czech national team will point to the UEFA Respect inscription on the left sleeve of their jerseys, referring to the UEFA campaign of the same name,” stated the Czech national football team in a statement before the match.
The Czech national football team had no problem kneeling before the matches during the autumn of last year. However, by kneeling in the October match against Scotland, the Czech footballers outraged a large part of the fans, who called them “idiots” and “sheep” on the Internet because of this gesture.
The investigation has not yet proven anything about Kúdela
According to Slavia Football Club, neither UEFA investigation nor the police have yet revealed whether the defender Ondřej Kúdela insulted Rangers midfielder Glen Kamara with a racist slur. The UEFA inspector dealing with the events of the match is due to prepare a report by Monday. Slavia also defended itself against escalating pressure from Rangers and others in the UK against UEFA and the police.
“Ongoing investigations by the UEFA and the local police have not yet come up with any findings. However, Ondřej Kúdela is already publicly convicted without any evidence, he is a victim of prejudice and the presumption of guilt,” Tvrdík said in a statement sent by Slavia to Czech News Agency.
“The UEFA inspector is still investigating the incidents and the deadline for drafting the report has been extended to April 5. We believe in a process based on evidence and law, with Ondřej Kúdela and our club providing all the necessary cooperation to the relevant authorities. We have presented evidence that, from our point of view, clears Ondřej of unjustified accusations of racism,” said Tvrdík.
According to Tvrdík, xenophobic prejudices against clubs, players, and people in Central and Eastern Europe are clearly growing on the part of some participants and parts of the British media. He said that the Rangers were trying to cover up the team’s brutal game. After an hour of the match, the substitute Kemar Roofe injured goalkeeper Ondřej Kolář, who suffered a fracture in the frontal cavity.
He also said that the Rangers were silent about the incidents after the match and Kamara’s attack on Kúdela.
“The Rangers wanted to talk to Kúdela to clarify the alleged racial insult. The interview was to take place in a tunnel under the auspices and in the presence of the UEFA delegation and coaches of both teams. However, the cameras covering the meeting place were deliberately veiled, and Mr. Kamara then, without warning and apparently with no intention of saying anything, brutally attacked our football player by hitting him in the face. He still tried to continue the fight and then fled to the locker room with coach Gerrard without a word of apology. It is a shameful incident,” said Tvrdík.
Slavia again called for an independent investigation into the incidents and to calm the communication.
“Any racial discrimination is against our values and principles, and we will never tolerate it. We believe that all people must be free and equal in dignity and rights. Slavia consistently follows the program of combating manifestations of racism compiled by the organization FARE (Football Against Racism in Europe),” concluded Tvrdík.
Title image: Czech Republic’s Ondrej Celustka, right, and Wales’ Daniel James battle for the ball during the World Cup 2022 group E qualifying soccer match between Wales and Czech Republic at Cardiff Stadium, Cardiff, Tuesday, March 30, 2021. (Nick Potts/PA via AP)