Marcus Rashford has apologised for missing a penalty in the Euro 2020 final shootout, but says he “will never apologise for who I am” after receiving online racist abuse.
Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka’s social media pages were flooded with racist comments after their penalty shootout misses, leading the FA to release a statement condemning the “disgusting behaviour”.
England manager Gareth Southgate also condemned the abuse, saying it is the antithesis of what the national team’s values are and the “togetherness” that the squad has shown.
In a moving statement on Twitter on Monday evening, 23-year-old Rashford said: “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 thanked his England team-mates, with whom he has formed an ‘unbreakable bond’ – and the many fans who have sent him messages of support.
Rashford apologised for his penalty, which came back off the post after he had been brought off the bench in extra-time.
The Manchester United forward said: “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
“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 gone differently.”
Rashford praised the England squad for building such a strong bond during the tournament, as they became the first England team to reach a major final since the 1966 World Cup winners.
He added: “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.”
As well as racist abuse on his social media feed, Rashford’s mural in the Manchester suburb of Withington was defaced.
However, it was subsequently covered with messages of support, a picture of which he also placed on his Twitter feed, along with kind letters he has received from fans.
He said: “I’ve grown into a sport where I expected to read things written about myself.
“Whether it be in reference to the colour of my skin, where I grew up, or, most recently, how I decide to spend my time off the pitch [a reference to his campaign against homelessness and child hunger in the UK].
“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 10s 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.”
France international Paul Pogba posted a picture on Instagram featuring his Manchester United team mate Rashford, Sancho and Saka.
He wrote: “I am PROUD OF YOU. You win some, you lose some.
“You took the courage to take penalties and you showed your worth to help your country reach the final.
“We cannot tolerate or stand for racism anymore and we will never stop combatting it.
“You boys should hold your heads high and be proud of your confidence. You are examples of this beautiful game. Never forget that.
“Be proud of yourselves, the world of football is proud of you!”