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MOSCOW – If you are a member of the English World Cup squad, singing the national anthem is not a choice but a requirement.
Before the quarterfinal of the team against Colombia on Tuesday, the Daily Telegraph reports that the England players are "under orders" to mark "God Save The Queen" at maximum volume as they enter the field at Spartak Stadium.
The anthem and its relationship to sport are far less sensitive in Britain than in the United States. Firstly, as in most parts of the world, the anthem is not played in front of regular sporting events, but only with a national team in action.
In addition, issues of equality that have sparked anthem protests in the National Football League and elsewhere are less prominent in the United Kingdom.
Still, it was a surprise that head coach Gareth Southgate would take such a strong position to demand of his players that they would sing the anthem with the best voice. Previously, players were allowed to decide for themselves whether they wanted to sing or not. Former Captain Wayne Rooney, who had recently joined DC United in Major League Soccer, often did not sing at the start of his England career.
"It's different than in the past," said midfielder Ashley Young. "That's something the (coach) instilled in us and you can see that when the national anthem is sung.
"When I got back into the squad, it was very important for everyone else to know the national anthem and sing their hearts, and we join our arms to show our togetherness, so we do it."
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Robert Louis, 21, a political science student who joins the tournament as a fan, told USA TODAY Sports that the anthem is seen differently in the UK than in the US.
"We certainly have marginalized members of society, but the anthem has never really come as a symbol of protest, at least in modern times," said the Englishman. "When the English fans sing it, we like to see the team sing it too, it's patriotic and team-oriented, but it's not political."
The discussion about the hymn in British sports often refers to the English team that won the 2003 Rugby World Cup. Before the final against Australia, players hollered the anthem with passion and intensity, with some tears streaming down their cheeks. Since then, it has been a symbol of camaraderie and national pride.
Interestingly, Southgate is an avid student of American sports and ventured into the United States earlier this year. England, known for its reluctance to the media, took over the NFL's policy by hosting a media day before the tournament, where each player was provided for an interview.
Southgate also met with Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor to gain insights into the development of an NBA franchise and to study how elite basketball players use their bodies effectively in in-depth situations – compared to free-kickers and corners.
England has less travel support in Russia than in previous tournaments and could outnumber Colombia in the round of 16. However, if the instructions of Southgate are followed, the crew will at least get a hearing before kicking off.