England boss Gareth Southgate has revealed he received more abuse for a UK government video that urged youngsters to receive Covid-19 vaccinations than at any point during the Three Lions’ recent run to the Euro 2020 final.
The former Premier League player admitted he has concerns over misinformation on social media which has convinced some professional footballers not to have their jabs, adding that he is now reluctant to offer a strong opinion on the matter because of the angry backlash to his participation in a campaign aimed at increasing vaccinations among the country’s young people.
Southgate drew parallels with his outspoken support for the contentious taking of the knee before matches, revealing that his embattled secretary has taken the brunt of the negative reaction.
“I’m not going to get too involved in this because I was asked to do a video supporting the vaccination programme, which I thought was responsible,” Southgate said during a press conference to announce his squad for 2022 World Cup qualifiers against Hungary, Poland and Andorra next month.
England Football coach, Gareth Southgate promotes the coronavirus vaccination programme and tells young people their freedom rests on them taking the jab. pic.twitter.com/OUyTvMWopC
— Apex World News (@apexworldnews) July 24, 2021
“Of all the things I received abuse for over the summer – of which there’s been several – that’s probably the one I’ve received the most abuse over.
“I’m probably going to keep out of that argument for the time being.
“When you want to try to make a difference and take the right sort of stance on taking the knee and other things, then you know you are not going to please everybody and there are extreme views on lots of those subjects as well.
“I’m comfortable with that but I’m not going to town on things like the vaccine. I’m not the one who has to open some of that mail and some of those emails, because my poor secretary has dealt with quite a lot of that, so that is the reality.”
He remains supportive of the jab, though. “Our only way out of this pandemic across the world are the vaccinations – certainly for the vulnerable people,” Southgate stressed.
🗣 “There has been an incredible counter reaction which shows where we are heading as a country and ultimately we will get to.”Gareth Southgate focuses on the positive counter reaction to the abuse that the England players suffered after the Euro 2020 final pic.twitter.com/wHymOEEiUV
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) August 26, 2021
“I understand a lot of young people aren’t so keen. They are questioning things, I don’t know whether that is accurate or not.
“I never know now what to believe on social media: what’s news, what’s fake news. There are all sorts of campaigns.
“But I think there is a slight concern that one or two younger players – [Liverpool midfielder] Dean Henderson, [Newcastle goalkeeper] Karl Darlow – have really suffered with the virus,” he continued.
“It’s not necessarily accurate to say that as a young person you are not going to have complicated symptoms. But I know the take-up is very varied across clubs and that’s for individuals.”
Southgate confirmed that he has spoken to the trio of black players – Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho – who were racially abused for missing penalties in the shoot-out that gave Italy victory at Wembley.
“I was in touch with all three of them in the days after the final and we’ve then been in touch with their clubs as well,” Southgate said.
“Other people at the FA have also been involved in that. They know there’s support if they need but also they are very keen to move on. They’ve got a fresh season, they’ve got fresh challenges.
“They are all very exciting young players with a lot of exciting times ahead of them and they were all part of an amazing experience across the summer.
“I understand the question [about their welfare] but, for them, they are very much looking forward.”