Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho were brought on for the final moments of Sunday’s Euro 2020 game against Italy and were then asked to take a penalty. Having overlooked both players for the majority of the tournament, showing a lack of faith in the players’ ability to make a difference, for Gareth Southgate then to hand the most important moment to them seemed harsh, particularly without any time to even acclimatise to a game of this size.
Both Manchester United players missed and in response became victims of racist abuse on social media. Rashford’s mural in Withington, which had been created following his incredible work to hold the government to account and feed children during lockdown, was vandalised with racist insults and obscenities.
A local man covered the graffiti with bin liners before a woman stuck up hearts offering support. Before long, the wall was covered with messages of love and solidarity with Rashford.
I went to the mural yesterday afternoon and added my message, with groups of people coming and going all evening to do the same. While this support doesn’t undo the awful behaviour of some, it at least goes some way to showing Rashford how much love and care local fans feel for him.
The forward then took to social media to reflect on the events of the past few days and expressed his gratitude to those who had supported him.
I don’t even know where to start and I don’t even know how to put into words how I am feeling at this exact time.
I’ve had a difficult season, I think that’s been clear for everyone to see and I probably went into that final with a lack of confidence. I’ve always backed myself for a penalty, but something didn’t feel quite right.
During the long run-up I was saving myself a bit of time and unfortunately the result was not what I wanted. I felt as though I had let my team-mates down. I felt as if I’d let everyone down. A penalty was all I’d been asked to contribute for the team. I can score penalties in my sleep, so why not that one?
It’s been playing in my head over and over since I struck the ball and there’s probably not a word to quite describe how it feels. Final. 55 years. 1 penalty. History. All I can say is sorry. I wish it had of gone differently.
Whilst I continue to say sorry I want to shout out my team-mates. This summer has been one of the best camps I’ve experienced and you’ve all played a role in that. A brotherhood has been built that is unbreakable. Your success is my success. Your failures are mine.
I’ve grown into a sport where I expected to read things written about myself. Whether it be the colour of my skin, where I grew up, or, most recently, how I decide to spend my time off the pitch. 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. I’ve felt no prouder moment than wearing those three lions on my chest and seeing my family cheer me on in a crowd of tens of thousands.
I dreamt of days like this. The messages I’ve received today have been positively overwhelming and 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.
I’m Marcus Rashford, 23-year-old black man from Withington and Wythenshawe, South Manchester. If I have nothing else I have that. For all the kind messages thank you. I’ll be back stronger. We’ll be back stronger.
The mural has since been restored and the positive messages have continued.