Mahlon Romeo has revealed his hurt and anger at the behaviour of some Millwall fans who booed the players ‘taking the knee’ before today’s home game against Derby County.
The lifting of government restrictions meant that 2,000 supporters were allowed into the Championship match at The Den.
But when both sets of players did the pre-match gesture there was clearly audible dispproval from the stands.
Romeo told the South London Press: “Today’s game, to me now, has become irrelevant. The fans have been let back in – which the whole team was looking forward to. But in society there is a problem – and that problem is racism.
“The fans who have been let in today have personally disrespected not just me but the football club. And what the football club and the community stand for. What they’ve done is booed and condemned a peaceful gesture which was put in place to highlight, combat and stop any discriminatory behavior and racism. That’s it – that’s all that gesture is.
“And the fans have chosen to boo that, which for the life of me I can’t understand. It has offended me and everyone who works for this club – the players and the staff.
“I’m speaking on behalf of myself here – not any of the other players – I want to make that very clear. This is the first time I feel disrespected. Because you have booed and condemned a peaceful gesture which – and it needs repeating – was put in place to highlight, combat and tackle any discriminatory behavior and racism in general.
“I’m almost lost for words. I don’t know how they thought that would make me feel. I don’t know what they thought taking a knee stood for. But I think I’ve explained it simply enough. I feel really low – probably the lowest I’ve felt in my time at this club.
“It’s something I can’t wrap my head around. People will have their beliefs and views, which everyone is entitled too. I’m not trying to stop or contain – but if your beliefs and views oppose a positive change in society then don’t come to a football ground and spread them around.
“If it’s negative, don’t think you can come to a football ground and this is the place where you can spread hatred essentially.”
Millwall’s players had already issued a statement saying they would continue to take a knee until the end of 2020.
“We can’t do it forever and we’ve spoken as players about it and with the people upstairs. There was a statement put out by Millwall – we’re going to take it until the end of the year.
“We’ll start the year afresh and when we do that there will be things afresh which will combat racism and any discriminatory behaviour and will be positive change – not just for the football club, but for society.
“I’m here with Paul and Dean from the community, and I’ve seen first hand their work – I’ve been a part of it plenty of times. All the good work they do in the community has really been undone and attacked with what some fans have done today.
“A lot of people don’t know and appreciate how much Millwall do and have done in the community. It’s a lot, more than most other clubs. It’s vital for this community. Today fans have come here and basically f***** it off.”
Romeo joined Millwall in 2015 and has played 194 times since arriving on a free transfer from Gillingham.
Asked if he considered not continuing to participate in the match, he replied: “Any time I come to play football I always give it 100 per cent. Especially playing for Millwall, it’s a club where you have to give 100 per cent if you’re coming on or your name is in the starting team.
“I’ve been here a long time now and I’ve grown up here, not just as a player but as a person. There’s been times when mentally maybe I didn’t have to play. As an example – I’m not looking for sympathy so don’t get me wrong – I buried one of my closest friends who also used to play for Millwall and then I came to play a game and the gaffer said if I wanted to get my head straight that option was always there. But I chose to because I wanted to play. Because I wanted to give 100 per cent.
“Even now I know there are a lot of players injured and even myself, I’m taking local anaesthetics to play in games and give 100 per cent.
“When fans are booing a peaceful gesture to highlight racism, it naturally makes you ask yourself ‘why am I putting myself through this?’ I’m sure not all Millwall fans share the same opinion – it’s a small collection. But if we’re being realistic it made me feel very small and it made me feel personally disrespected.”
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