Hundreds have left heartwarming messages on the now-repainted mural, after it was defaced following England’s Euros 2020 loss against Italy
On Sunday (July 11), the England squad made history by playing in the final of the Euros 2020 – the first time the men’s team has reached the final of an international tournament since the 1966 World Cup. Heartbreakingly, England lost to Italy during penalties – then, even more heartbreakingly, ‘fans’ turned on the team, spewing racial abuse to the three players who missed their penalties.
After the match, Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka, and Jadon Sancho were inundated with racist comments on their social media accounts. In a press conference the following day (July 12), manager Gareth Southgate said: “The players have had an incredible togetherness and spirit, which has brought so many parts of our country together. For some of them to be abused is unforgivable.”
A mural of Marcus Rashford in Manchester – the 23-year-old’s team and home city– was also defaced with “racially aggravated” graffiti less than an hour after England’s defeat. In a touching display of support for Rashford, the Withington community – Rashford’s home suburb where the mural is painted – has covered the artwork with England flags and heart-shaped post-it notes, all featuring tributes to the footballer. The mural has also since been repainted by its artist, Akse.
As reported by Manchester Evening News, many of the notes reference Rashford’s work outside of football, primarily his crusading work on food poverty during the pandemic last year. “I can take or leave football, but I cannot take or leave people like you,” reads one. Another reads: “Thank you for your passion, compassion, and desire to change lives.”
Taking to Twitter yesterday, Rashford said: “Seeing the response in Withington had me on the verge of tears. The communities that always wrapped their arms around me continue to hold me up.”
Referencing England’s loss and the subsequent abuse from fans, he added: “I can take critique of my performance all day long, my penalty was not good enough, it should have gone in, but I will never apologise for who I am and where I came from.” Rashford also shared handwritten notes he’d received from young fans, one of whom wrote: “Don’t let a penalty make you upset, you are truly a kind, amazing hero.”
England captain Harry Kane also addressed the racism on Twitter, writing: “Three lads who were brilliant all summer had the courage to step up and take a pen when the stakes were high. They deserve support and backing, not the vile racist abuse they’ve had since last night. If you abuse anyone on social media, you’re not an England fan and we don’t want you.”
Defender Tyrone Mings took to Twitter to call out the hypocrisy of Boris Johnson and home secretary Priti Patel. Both government figures criticised the racial abuse of England’s players after the Euros 2020 final, despite Patel declaring in June that fans have a right to boo the team for taking the knee before matches – an anti-racism protest. “You don’t get to stoke the fire at the beginning of the tournament by labelling our anti-racism message as ‘Gesture Politics’ and then pretend to be disgusted when the very thing we’re campaigning against happens,” said Mings.
Saka and Sancho are yet to comment on either the game or its aftermath.
In his summer 2021 cover story for Dazed, Rashford wrote a manifesto on the triumph of community, spirit, and what it can do for the next generation. “I’m incredibly proud to call myself a footballer and to call football my profession,” he said. “That ball is one of the most consistent things I’ve owned in my life. It gave me an avenue out of difficulty for not only me but my family, and I’m eternally grateful for that. It has also offered me a voice to speak on behalf of children who are just like me – from areas just like mine. I’m not a ‘campaigner’, I’ve just acted as the bridge. A bridge for real issues and real feelings to be heard.”
Read Rashford’s full manifesto here, and see Manchester and the wider footballing world’s tributes to Rashford, Saka, and Sancho below.
Three lads who were brilliant all summer had the courage to step up & take a pen when the stakes were high. They deserve support & backing not the vile racist abuse they’ve had since last night. If you abuse anyone on social media you’re not an @England fan and we don’t want you. pic.twitter.com/PgskPAXgxV— Harry Kane (@HKane) July 12, 2021