Five weeks on, and even with the Metropolitan Police on notice after their incompetence in July, strife has erupted again, with England’s united front on taking the knee incapable of deterring Hungary’s “Carpathian Brigade” of fascist hooligans.
It is little wonder that increasing numbers of black players are questioning what the endgame is. Wilfried Zaha has stopped any involvement at Crystal Palace, describing the action as a “degrading” symbol of subjugation, as has Brentford’s Ivan Toney. Tony Burnett, head of Kick It Out, acknowledges that the message has become diluted.
The pervasive sense of helplessness was neatly captured in the Wembley aftermath by John Barnes. “Football can do nothing to change racism,” he argued. “Taking the knee isn’t going to change anything.” It might appear, at first glance, an unduly fatalistic verdict. But a single telling image from a ghastly evening at Wembley, Kane’s posture framed against that grim Hungarian banner, demonstrates that taking the knee is fated to keep dividing the very audience it seeks to unify.