Written by Staff Writer
London, UK (CNN) — The England football team’s reaction to footballer John Terry’s outspoken criticism of the national anthem has polarized fans — if not the players themselves.
The embattled former England captain, 32, has found himself at the center of controversy over the past two weeks after unleashing a string of disparaging comments about the national anthem.
Terry, who signed for Aston Villa in the close season, sparked fury with comments that the national anthem, which is nationalized and based on an English poem by William Blake, “disrespects the people that died in the war for our freedom.”
His incendiary comments have yet to make a dent on his soccer career, although former England striker Alan Shearer, a fierce critic of the former Chelsea player, has called on Terry to “pick up the baton” and apologize.
This week, coach Gareth Southgate defended his team against angry fans at the season launch event for the English Premier League.
He declined to comment directly on Terry’s comments, but said, “There are a lot of things going on in the world at the moment and everyone has a view on the National Anthem.
“The most important thing is we carry on with the important things and that’s the job for us, and the more people get involved in this, the easier that can be.”
Since joining Aston Villa, Terry has faced a backlash, even from his own fans, who have marched through the town chanting “racist scum” at the defender.
After some fans confronted the player on the street outside the team’s training ground, Terry said he supports their right to protest.
“Our big problem is we’re always fighting and antagonizing each other. Football is a beautiful game,” he said at the time.
After those comments, supporters of rivals Tottenham Hotspur forced the issue further by singing “Oh, England, oh, England” at a match to a predominantly home crowd, referencing the word “racist” while imitating the lyrics.
At one of Terry’s home matches in March, opposing fans sang “Turkey, England, Turkey” a reference to his age — he signed for Chelsea in 1998 — and his long-standing support for Turkish-origin soccer.
But in the heat of the Manchester derby in late August, the players refused to stand for the anthem, amid accusations they were not “respectful” of their rivals. The England team has worn armbands during a World Cup qualifier to mark the country’s remembrance of its wartime service.
Professional Footballers’ Association chairman Ritchie Humphreys has been asked to meet with Southgate over the whole issue, BBC reported.