Some England supporters have responded poorly to their team’s European Championship 2020 final loss, lashing out on social media against players who missed penalties and even defacing a mural of Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford.
The mural of Rashford – which adorns a wall in Withington, Manchester – was defaced shortly after England’s loss, with swear words and “Saka” scrawled across Rashford’s face.
Rashford, along with Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka, missed a penalty in the tense and thrilling shoot out against Italy that ended 3-2 after a 1-1 tie. All three players, who are Black, faced racist abuse on social media following the game.
“Hate crime in any form is completely unacceptable and not welcome here in our city,” Chief Superintendent Paul Savill said during an appeal for information to assist in the investigation.
The mural went up last November by Withington Walls, based on a photograph by Daniel Cheetham and painted by street artist Akse, according to The Standard.
Ed Wellard, who co-founded Withington Walls, was heartbroken to hear that the mural had been defaced.
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“I’ve come out to fix what I could immediately and cover up what I couldn’t and hopefully we will get the artist out to come and fix it,” Wellard told the BBC. “We dared to dream yesterday and our hopes were dashed but to wake up to this is more depressing. Racism seems to be more and more prevalent.”
Rashford has dedicated his money and time spent off the field towards tackling child food poverty, for which he received a Member of the British Empire (MBE) from the Queen during her Birthday Honors for 2020.
However, those plaudits did not ease the pain that England supporters felt in the aftermath of their team’s defeat: England’s historic run saw them concede just once prior to their first European Cup final, only dropping points against Scotland in the group stage.
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A New York Times article praised the “unity” of the English support prior to the final, claiming that England’s “stunning rise” was “helping define a new vision of Englishness, putting the lie to those would stir culture wars.”
“Tens of millions of British fans will be watching avidly, glorying not just in the team’s success on the field but off it as well — as a microcosm of a nation seemingly more enthusiastic about its evolving identity as a more tolerant, multiracial and multi-ethnic society than is often suggested,” the article claimed.
That tolerance disappeared as soon as the final whistle blew, though, as some fans – a very vocal minority, many claim – took to social media and targeted the three players who missed their penalties, hurling racist abuse and images at them.
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The English Football Association, along with the rest of the England team, strongly condemned the abuse.
“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,” the statement said.
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“We could not be clearer that anyone behind such disgusting behaviour is not welcome in following the team,” it continued. “We will do all we can to support the players affected while urging the toughest punishments possible for anyone responsible.”