A giant digital mural has been unveiled in Manchester in support of England stars Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka.
The three black footballers were racially abused online after they missed penalties in a shootout against Italy in Sunday’s Euro 2020 final.
A mural of Rashford in his home town of Withington was also defaced in a ‘racially aggravated’ act of vandalism.
Giant mural has been unveiled in support of Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka
But the graffiti was quickly covered by dozens of tributes with the words ‘role model’, ‘wonderful human’ and ‘hero’.
And in a further show of support, the sports social media publisher SPORTbible on Tuesday launched a giant digital billboard of the three players wearing crowns with the strapline ‘never apologise for who you are’.
It came after Rashford apologised for his penalty miss but said he ‘will never apologise for who I am’ after he was one of three players subjected to racist abuse.
The Manchester United forward, who was left visibly distraught after his penalty hit the post, also paid tribute to his supportive teammates and vowed to ‘come back stronger’ after the heartbreaking finale to Euro 2020.
Marcus Rashford today said he was ‘close to tears’ after well-wishers covered graffiti sprayed on his Manchester mural with notes of support in the wake of his Euro 2020 penalty heartache
He reserved a special thank you for those who had stepped in to restore his mural on the wall of the Coffee House Cafe in his home town of Withington.
The painted image was on Monday night defaced, in what is being investigated by police as a possible ‘hate crime’, with derogatory comments about Rashford and included the words ‘sh**e’ and ‘b*****d’. Further graffiti said ‘f**k Sancho’ – a reference to Three Lions team-mate Sancho.
However, Rashford fans quickly rushed to the site to hide the abusive messages, before placing hearts over the covering.
Speaking about their support in an open letter posted on his Twitter account, the star said: ‘The messages I have received have been positively overwhelming and seeing the response in Withington had me on the verge of tears.
A local resident puts love hearts and slogans on the plastic that covers offensive graffiti on the vandalised mural of Manchester United striker and England player Marcus Rashford
‘The communities that always wrapped their arms around me continue to hold me up. I’m a 23-year-old black man from Withington and Wythenshawe, South Manchester. If I have nothing else, I have that.’
Earlier in the open letter he apologised for his penalty miss against Italy, saying ‘I felt as though I’d let everyone down’.
‘It’s been playing over in my head over and over since and there’s probably not a word to quite describe how it feels,’ he said. ‘Final. 55-years. 1 penalty. History. All I can say is sorry. I wish it had gone differently.’
The striker also praised his teammates, saying it was the ‘best camps I’ve experienced’ and adding that an ‘unbreakable brotherhood’ had been formed.
Manchester residents are redecorating a mural honouring England footballer Marcus Rashford with hearts and messages calling the player a ‘hero’ and a ‘role model’
He also tackled the abuse he had faced, saying he would ‘never apologise’ for being himself, before ending on a positive note by vowing to bounce back from the heartache, saying: ‘For all the kind messages, thank you. I’ll be back stronger. We’ll be back stronger.’
It comes as Greater Manchester Police today called the defacing of the Rashford mural a ‘racially aggravated’ act of vandalism.
In a statement, GMP slammed the ‘racially aggravated’ and ‘disgraceful’ damage, adding: ‘Hate crime in any form is completely unacceptable and not welcome here in our city.’ The force was alerted at around 2.50am this morning. No arrests have been made and inquiries are ongoing.
Chief Superintendent Paul Savill said: ‘This is disgraceful behaviour and will absolutely not be tolerated. Greater Manchester prides itself on being made up from a number of diverse communities, and hate crime in any form is completely unacceptable and not welcome here in our city.
A mural honouring England star Marcus Rashford was vandalised less than an hour after last night’s Euro 2020 final defeat
‘GMP takes crimes of this nature very seriously and an investigation has been launched. If anyone has any information that could help us to identify this offender please do not hesitate to speak to police.’
The artwork was created by Akse, a French-born graffiti artist, in November 2020. A painting of Rashford appears alongside the phrase: ‘Take pride in knowing that your struggle will play the biggest role in your purpose’.
The Football Association has condemned the ‘disgusting behaviour’ of a small number of mindless social media users who aimed abuse at players in the wake of England’s loss to the Italians.
England manager Gareth Southgate described abuse of Rashford, Sancho and Bukayo Saka as ‘unforgivable’ after they were targeted by racists overnight after they missed penalties. He spoke out after Prince William and Prime Minister Boris Johnson denounced the racist abuse.
Further graffiti said ‘f**k Sancho’ – a reference to Rashford’s Three Lions teammate Jadon Sancho, who also missed a penalty in the biggest game for England since the 1966 World Cup
Rashford reacts after hitting the post in their team’s third penalty in a penalty shoot-out
Southgate left little doubt of his feelings towards so-called supporters who had fired racist remarks at his team. He said: ‘It’s just not what we stand for. We have been a beacon of light in bringing people together in people being able to relate to the national team, and the national team stands for everybody and so that togetherness has to continue.
‘We have shown the power our country has when it does come together and has that energy and positivity together. It’s my decision who takes the penalties, it’s not a case of players not volunteering or more experienced players backing out.’
Wording on the vandalised mural of Manchester United striker and England player Marcus Rashford
The mural on the wall of the Coffee House Cafe in Withington, south Manchester, was defaced with derogatory comments about Rashford including the words ‘sh**e’ and ‘b*****d’
Estate agents Savills said it was investigating today if a member of staff posted a vile tweet aimed at the England players
The Metropolitan Police confirmed they will be investigating the abuse
It came as police began hunting the racists behind some of the vile social media posts.
The horrific comments, including racist language and emojis, have led to the FA condemning its racist fans and saying they are not ‘welcome in following in the team’ and the Metropolitan Police has confirmed its officers will be investigating.
While thousands rallied to support the players, especially Saka, who lit up the tournament for England at the age of just 19.
Calling on those behind the abuse to face arrest and prosecution, one fan said: ‘I’ll take these three Englishmen over any racist-moron-fake-fan every day of the week and twice on a Sunday’.
Another wrote: ‘I stand with Rashford. I stand with Sancho. I stand with Saka. I stand with a whole team of brilliant men who made us all proud & represent the best this country has to offer I reject everything about the Racists & Shape Shifters who represent the worst’.
Racist social media users instantly took to the accounts of the three black players who missed penalties in last night’s clash against Italy.
The players’ Instagram and Twitter feeds were subjected to a barrage of racist imagery including monkey and banana emojis, as well as written comments packed with horrifying slurs.
Nineteen-year-old Bukayo Saka is inconsolable after failing to score his penalty kick and handing victory to the Italians
Nineteen-year-old Saka was consoled by Gareth Southgate as penalties came back to haunt the manager who missed his spot kick as a player at the semi-finals of Euro 1996
A spokesman said: ‘The FA strongly condemns all forms of discrimination and is appalled by the online racism that has been aimed at some of our England players on social media.
‘We could not be clearer that anyone behind such disgusting behaviour is not welcome in following the team. We will do all we can to support the players affected while urging the toughest punishments possible for anyone responsible.
‘We will continue to do everything we can to stamp discrimination out of the game, but we implore government to act quickly and bring in the appropriate legislation so this abuse has real life consequences.
‘Social media companies need to step up and take accountability and action to ban abusers from their platforms, gather evidence that can lead to prosecution and support making their platforms free from this type of abhorrent abuse.’
And the Metropolitan Police confirmed they will be investigating the abuse and said: ‘We are aware of a number of offensive and racist social media comments being directed towards footballers following the #Euro2020 final.
‘This abuse is totally unacceptable, it will not be tolerated and it will be investigated.’