'An outpouring of love': Fans leave messages of support at vandalised Rashford mural

13 July 2021, 19:03 | Updated: 13 July 2021, 21:14

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

A huge sea of well-wishers turned out to pay their respects today after a mural of Marcus Rashford was defaced by vandals just an hour after the England star's penalty miss against Italy in the Euro 2020 final.

Scores gathered today in Manchester at the poignant depiction of the footballer, which has become a focal point for people honouring England's Euros campaign and hitting back at racist cowards who abused some of the players.

In the evening, protesters gathered to chant "black lives matter" and carried anti-racism sings.

Rashford himself thanked fans personally after they sent him letters of support after his miss against Italy in the Euro 2020 final in a powerful series of messages posted online.

On Tuesday, Rashford tweeted he was: "Overwhelmed. Thankful. Lost for words."

The mural was defaced, then parts of it bearing vile slogans were covered up, before an outpouring of support saw it covered in powerful anti-racist messages and messages supporting the team. It was also restored to its former glory by street artist Akse P19.

A sea of well-wishers turned up at the mural today
A sea of well-wishers turned up at the mural today. Picture: LBC

Addressing demonstrators after they took the knee at the mural on Tuesday evening, protester Lamin Touray said racist abuse aimed at Rashford and teammates Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho has "ignited an anti-racist movement" in Manchester.

Mr Touray said: "Those players have shown us everything that is good about this country, black and white united against racism, taking a strong stance.

"We know the powers that be want this to go away, and the attack on Sancho and Rashford and Saka has ignited the anti-racist movement in this country and in this beautifully diverse city."

Ed Wellard, the founder of Withington Walls, the community street art project behind the mural, said: "There's been an outpouring of kind of love and solidarity and it's really heartening.

"It's a lovely thing isn't it? I watched the footage with my friends and saw those penalties being missed and all I felt was empathy and compassion for those young men, they've done themselves proud, on and off the pitch.

"I gave my 11-year-old boy a hug because he was crying and I wanted to give the players a hug."

A spontaneous online crowd-funder for the mural has now raised more than £30,000, which Mr Wellard said will be used for further artwork.

Rashford thanked fans for their support on Monday night, tweeting: "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."

The Manchester United forward was among a trio of English players to miss a spot kick during Sunday night's heartbreaking defeat to the Azzurri.

Italy fought back after an early Three Lions goal from Luke Shaw, with the game finishing 1-1 after 90 minutes and extra time.

A nail-biting penalty shootout was required to settle the European Championship, but England's troubled past from 12 yards came back to haunt them once again as the Italians held their nerve.

Read more: Prince William 'sickened' by racist abuse aimed at England players

Read more: FA 'appalled' as England stars given racist online abuse after Italy loss

A mural dedicated to Marcus Rashford was vandalised after England's loss to Italy
A mural dedicated to Marcus Rashford was vandalised after England's loss to Italy. Picture: LBC

Marcus Rashford and his Man United teammate Jadon Sancho were both brought on late in the match to take penalties but both missed, along with Arsenal star Saka.

The three black footballers were later subjected to a torrent of disgusting racial abuse on social media, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the Football Association (FA) and Home Secretary Priti Patel among those to condemn it.

Within an hour of England's loss, a piece of artwork dedicated to Rashford in Withington, south Manchester - near to where he lived with his family before moving to Wythenshawe - was vandalised with graffiti.

The mural to Rashford has been defaced before
The mural to Rashford has been defaced before. Picture: LBC

On Monday evening, the footballer tweeted a message that said: "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 10s of thousands.

"I dreamt of days like this."

Read more: 49 arrests in central London after England's crushing Euro defeat

Read more: 'You did us so proud': Nation reacts to England's crushing loss to Italy

Pale writing branded on the mural appeared to say "F*** Sancho", while another message, which is more difficult to read, seemingly contained the words, "S**te" and "B*****d".

The artwork - which contains the following quote from the Man United star's mother: "Take pride in knowing that your struggle will play the biggest role in your purpose" - was created by street artist Aske last November.

It is based on a photograph by Daniel Cheetham and has been defaced before.

Greater Manchester police said in a statement: "At around 2.50am this morning (Monday 12 July 2021), police were called to reports of the racially aggravated damage of a mural on Copson Street in Withington.

"No arrests have been made and enquiries are ongoing.

"GMP will be working alongside Manchester City Council and the artist to ensure this graffiti is removed and the mural is repaired as soon as possible."

Fans gathered at the mural to share positive messages.
Fans gathered at the mural to share positive messages. Picture: PA
Mural Of Marcus Rashford Defaced In Manchester After Euros Loss
Mural Of Marcus Rashford Defaced In Manchester After Euros Loss. Picture: Getty

Chief Superintendent Paul Savill, of GMP's City of Manchester division, 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. If anyone has any information that could help us to identify this offender please do not hesitate to speak to police."

Read more: Heartbreak for England as Italy win Euro 2020 final on penalties

Read more: Prince George celebrates as England take 1-0 lead against Italy

The mural was repainted to its original form on Tuesday morning
The mural was repainted to its original form on Tuesday morning. Picture: Alamy

However, local fans of all ages visited the mural to share positive messages and support for Rashford and the England team.

The wall was covered with hearts labelling him a "hero" and "role model", while other smaller messages could be seen left from different visitors.

One read: "I can take or leave football but I cannot take or leave people like you. Thank you for your passion, compassion and desire to change lives."

Street artist Akse P19 repairs the mural of Marcus Rashford
Street artist Akse P19 repairs the mural of Marcus Rashford. Picture: Alamy

Rashford responded on Twitter, and said: "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."

The mural was then re-painted on Tuesday morning and is now back in its original form.

On Monday, Prince William condemned the racist abuse directed at the Three Lions' black footballers.

He wrote on Twitter: "I am sickened by the racist abuse aimed at England players after last night’s match.

"It is totally unacceptable that players have to endure this abhorrent behaviour.

"It must stop now and all those involved should be held accountable."

A demonstration will take place at the mural at 6pm on Tuesday.