Fans have covered a mural of England footballer Marcus Rashford in messages of support after it was defaced in the wake of the Euro 2020 defeat.
The mural in Withington, Manchester, was vandalised after the 23-year-old player missed a penalty in the shootout against Italy on Sunday (11 July) night.
Residents and fans come out in support
The Rashford mural was defaced within hours of England’s loss to Italy in the Euro 2020 final, with police treating it as a racist incident.
Graffiti and the word “f***” had been scrawled across the huge artwork depicting the Manchester United striker on the wall of the Coffee House Cafe in Copson Street, south Manchester.
The words “sh*t” and “b*stard” were also written beside the word “Saka”, referencing the 19-year-old player Bukayo Saka whose final penalty miss gave Italy victory.
Rashford and his teammates Jadon Sancho and Bykayo Saka were all faced with a swathe of racist abuse on social media after missing penalties in the shoot-out on Sunday.
However, within hours of the mural being defaced, local residents had covered it in messages of support and hearts which had the words “hero” and “Marcus for Prime Minister” written on them.
England flags have also been posted around the mural, and fans supporting a range of clubs, took to social media to condemn the racist attacks directed at Rashford.
Rashford thanked fans for their support following England’s defeat, describing the messages he had received as “overwhelming” and promised he would bounce back from the disappointment stronger.
In a tweet, he wrote: “The messages I have 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 years 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.”
Vandals need to be educated
Ed Wellard, the founder of community street art project Withington Walls, created the mural of Rashford and said he was coming back to work on it on Tuesday (13 July) morning.
Asked what punishment the vandals should be given for the damage, Mr Wellard told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “Racism is learned behaviour, I think it should be more about education than punishment.
“I don’t think you’re going to change people’s minds with punishment.
“There needs to be active discussion about racism in this country, within sport, within society, on social media, and I think it’s heartening this sorry incident is allowing us to have those discussions because that’s the way we will move forwards as a country.”
Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said they were called at 2.50am on Monday (12 July) to reports of racially aggravated damage to the mural.
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.
“GMP takes crimes of this nature very seriously and an investigation has been launched.”
Manchester United tweeted a video of the notes left by fans in support and called Rashford an “inspiration”.
The mural is based on a photograph by Daniel Cheetham and painted by street artist Akse.
It was created last November in collaboration with Withington Walls after reportedly being commission to honour Rashford’s work to tackle child food poverty in the UK.
It was reportedly commissioned in recognition of Rashford’s work to tackle child food poverty.
His mother provided the quote on the mural, which reads: “Take pride in knowing that your struggle will play the biggest role in your purpose.”
Since it was defaced, a crowdfunder has been set up to raise funds to repair and maintain it, with more than £27,000 already raised by Tuesday morning.