MLS returns: Nani helps Orlando beat Inter Miami after powerful pre-match protest

Players from across Major League Soccer joined a pre-match anti-racism demonstration as football returned in the US for the first time since March.

In the first game since the coronavirus shutdown, ex-Manchester United winger Nani scored to secure a win for Orlando over David Beckham-owned Inter Miami.

Dozens of MLS players took to the pitch before kick-off and raised their fist for eight minutes and 46 seconds.

“It was emotional for the ones who were there,” said Orland’s Nani.

“We all want to change the world. We want a better world – no differences, no discrimination. Everyone in the world should stop for a couple of minutes and think about our children and teach them how to be a better person and create a better world.”

Black American George Floyd died after being pinned to the floor – including the police officer kneeling on his neck – for eight minutes and 46 seconds by policeman Derek Chauvin on 25 May.

Chauvin has been charged with murder and the incident prompted mass protests across the world, including in the sporting arena.

A Black Players for Change group set up by MLS athletes orchestrated the protest before Wednesday’s fixture, which was played behind closed doors at Disney World in Florida, where the teams have gathered in order to guard against the spread of coronavirus.

As Orlando and Inter Miami players took a knee around the centre circle, players from the other teams stood around them and one-by-one raised their fist.

Each wore face masks emblazoned with ‘Black Lives Matter’, while some wore T-shirts with slogans including ‘silence is violence’ and ‘black and proud’.

The fixture was part of the MLS is Back Tournament, which takes a group stage and knockout format and runs until 11 August.

Nani’s 97th-minute strike completed the fightback for Orlando, who had equalised through Chris Mueller on 70 minutes after Juan Agudelo fired Inter Miami into the lead just after half-time.

On Monday, FC Dallas were forced to withdraw from the tournament after 10 players and a member of support staff tested positive for coronavirus.

And there are fears a second team may withdraw as Nashville SC have confirmed five cases in their squad, with some reports stating as many as nine players are infected.

Major League Commissioner Don Garber said: “If we find that we have a situation with Nashville where they can’t continue in the tournament we will make that decision and move forward from there.”


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