All of England had been captivated at the prospect of being crowned European soccer champions for the first time, and the national team’s wrenching defeat on Sunday tore a collective wound — in more ways than one.
Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, and Bukayo Saka were among the five England players who braved the pressures of the penalty shootout at the end of the championship. But they all missed the mark, unleashing a surge of racist abuse on social media against the players, all of whom are young Black men.
In the early hours of Monday, Manchester police were called to Withington, in the south of the city, where Mr. Rashford was born, after receiving reports that racist graffiti had been scrawled on a monochrome mural of the soccer star.
The vision of a multiracial, multiethnic Britain that the England team came to symbolize as it fought its way to the final, emphasized by its stance on antiracism with players taking a knee before each game, appeared to vanish.
But as news of the vandalism spread, one act of racism was met with hundreds of messages of pride and love.
Within hours, a collage of hearts, England flags and letters, addressed to Rashford from local fans of every age and color, covered the black sheets of paper that had been used to cover the graffiti. One note read, “My Prime Minister” and “heart of the nation,” while another said, “son of Manchester.”
Akse P19, the local street artist who created the mural, soon repaired the parts destroyed by the vandalism.
Israel Powell, 8, came to the mural accompanied by his father, Tru, 36, who brought his son to see how much his favorite soccer star, once a Black boy from Manchester like Israel himself, was revered by so many, and to post a letter on the wall.
“The racist abuse made me really sad,” Israel said. “Dear Saka, Sancho and Rashford, I like you because you did the best you could do. It’s OK if you didn’t score, I’m still proud of you,” he said, recalling what he wrote in his letter.
Hazel Roy felt compelled to show her solidarity for Mr. Rashford on Tuesday, despite it being her 75th birthday. “I was appalled when I heard that the mural had been defaced,” she said. But, she added, “I was so heartened to hear many people had come to offer their support for him, because I think what he’s done is magnificent.”
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SOURCE: The New York Times, Aina J. Khan