Kit controversy and Harry Kane out as England gear up for Brazil clash

By John Mercury March 23, 2024

England’s Euro 2024 preparations will begin in earnest tonight when they face Brazil in a high-profile friendly at Wembley – the first time the men’s team will sport a new kit after a backlash to changes to the St George’s Cross on the shirt.

The row erupted after Nike revealed it had altered the traditional red cross of the England flag on the back of the shirt’s collar, introducing purple and blue stripes.

England manager Gareth Southgate has insisted the Three Lions crest is the most important part of the national team’s shirt, rather than the “artistic take” on the St George’s Cross.

“In my head, if it’s not a red cross on a white background, it isn’t the Cross of St George anyway,” he said.

The redesigned St George's Cross on the new England football shirt
The redesigned St George’s Cross on the new England football shirt

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer are among a host of names to criticise the decision to alter the colour of the St George’s Cross on the back of the collar.

However, the FA has stood by the controversial design of the new kit and said it is “very proud” of the red and white St George’s Cross but gave its support to the new look.

“The new England 2024 home kit has a number of design elements which were meant as a tribute to the 1966 World Cup-winning team,” a spokesperson said.

“The coloured trim on the cuffs is inspired by the training gear worn by England’s 1966 heroes and the same colours also feature on the design on the back of the collar.

“It is not the first time that different coloured St George’s Cross-inspired designs have been used on England shirts.

“We are very proud of the red and white St George’s Cross – the England flag. We understand what it means to our fans and how it unites and inspires and it will be displayed prominently at Wembley… as it always is – when England play Brazil.”

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Nike issued a statement saying it was not its “intention to offend” but to “celebrate the heroes of 1966 and their achievements”.

“We have been a proud partner of the FA since 2012 and understand the significance and importance of the St George’s Cross,” said the US firm.

“The trim on the cuffs takes its cues from the training gear worn by England’s 1966 heroes, with a gradient of blues and reds topped with purple. The same colours also feature an interpretation of the flag on the back of the collar.”

What are the origins of the St George’s Cross?

The St George’s Cross, featuring a white background with a red cross, is the national flag of England.

The standard hails back to the time of the crusades, with the two colours used to distinguish between English and French troops.

The red cross on a white background subsequently became representative of the religious military campaigns and was used by many nations to show their support for them.

The first record of the standard being associated with St George was in Genoa, which adopted him as patron saint during the 12th century as the personification of the ideals of Christian chivalry.

St George was a soldier in the Roman army, who allegedly slayed a dragon in order to save the Princess of Libya.

When he was rewarded by the King, he gave all the money to the poor and then converted to Christianity.

He died a martyr in 303 because he refused to recant his faith.

England adopted him as its patron saint in 1348.

In 1552, all saints’ flags were abolished in England apart from St George’s in the English Reformation under King Edward VI who also used it as his royal standard.

In 1606, the flag was incorporated into the official design of the Union Jack, which united the four nations as they then existed.

Still widely used today, Church of England churches often fly the St George’s flag.

More recently the English national emblem is flown at sporting events to represent the country.

The flag flies with the Union Flag every St George’s Day, which is celebrated on 23 April.

A petition on calling for a design change had attracted more than 35,000 signatures by 5am on Saturday.

The kit pricing has also been criticised.

An “authentic” version costs £124.99 for adults and £119.99 for children – while a “stadium” version is priced at £84.99 and £64.99 for children.

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Five-time World Cup winners Brazil will be wearing blue rather than their famous yellow shirts at Wembley, and will be looking to avoid suffering a fourth straight loss in all competitions.

Brazil ended last year with World Cup qualification defeats to Uruguay, Colombia and Argentina and start 2024 as underdogs against England under new boss Dorival Junior.

Skipper Harry Kane was ruled out of the match on Friday. Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka also withdrew from the squad through injury on Thursday.

England vice-captain Jordan Henderson and Cole Palmer remain with the camp but they too are sidelined for the game.

Manchester United midfielder Kobbie Mainoo, 18, whose fine form for Erik ten Hag’s side led to his promotion from the England Under-21s set-up earlier in the week, could make his debut against Brazil given the injury concerns in his position.

Despite the absentees, England are favourites to win.

“There are lots of matches against big opponents that we don’t have outstanding records against that this team have managed to beat – Italy twice being an example, Spain,” said Southgate.

“So, it’s another opportunity for us to put a marker down, create a little bit more history for these boys.

“But also we’re going to be tested in every aspect of our game, and that’s going to be a great challenge for us.”


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