Written by By Annie Zhou, CNN
As England players wore t-shirts with the words “I will not be silenced” on the eve of their World Cup qualifier against Croatia on Saturday, with all of their opponents taking a knee during the national anthem before the match, many took to social media to share their feelings.
Tens of thousands of fans applauded the gesture, which was made by players from the England and Croatia national soccer teams, and saw an unprecedented move from both sides — let alone international soccer teams. Many others applauded it, but with a mixed opinion.
“Armenians also take part in the national anthem and have always been left feeling disenfranchised,” read a tweet from “True Britain,” the official account of the English Veterans Association.
Not all were impressed. One user, Erich Oehme, wrote: “I can’t relate to this — why would football players care how the other guy feels and what they say in the national anthem, as it’s in the same game anyway.
“I don’t mind that the England and Croatia players felt that the national anthem was not as respected as they believed it should be, but that’s pretty much personal to them.”
On Twitter, there was a similar spectrum of opinion.
On one side, British residents said the players’ actions were a victory against racism, and that they did not represent the wider British public.
In the other camp, several commenters cited the real-life history of “disenfranchised” Armenians in the UK, and highlighted that there is a different set of values to the treatment of other groups in the football world.
“I could just imagine that some of these footballers would stop playing football if a handball player could just refuse to play when he saw the offender crying,” wrote one of the users.
Other observers also mocked the fact that Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic chose to go down and take a knee during the anthem, instead of leading his side out as was customary.
“I didn’t realize Croatia preaches equal respect to homosexuals,” said one user.
“If enough people like this think a hug is important, maybe a hug, a handshake, or even the national anthem is too obvious.”
Still others questioned the significance of the response, saying it was too little too late.
“What is the world coming to?” one Twitter user said. “It’s not like FIFA and the FA are standing up for Armenians or national socialists or other group having a “problem.” These guys are simply showing solidarity with one of their own for a general principle.”