The football community defended Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford and prospective new signing Jadon Sancho after the duo were subject to criticism and vile abuse following England’s loss against Italy in the Euro 2020 final.
The final was decided on a penalty shootout after neither team managed to win in extra time, with the score tied at 1-1.
England manager Gareth Southgate brought Rashford and Sancho on as substitutes in the 119th minute of extra time, with the sole purpose of taking penalties.
However, they both, along with Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka, missed their respective spot-kicks, leading to the Azzurri winning the shootout 3-2.
The three were targeted online through disgusting racial abuse on social media platforms. The comments made on their Instagram and Twitter posts were sickening to read.
Man United legend Rio Ferdinand delivered a passionate defence of the youngsters in his post-match interview with BBC.
“It is a huge disappointment, but the fans were clapping our players, and they have brought us a joy that most people, definitely my generation and below, have never felt watching an England team.”
“There is no way that anybody can point the finger and blame anybody. Penalty shootouts are a lottery, and again, you have to be brave. I have seen seasoned players with hundreds of games under their belts turn away from a penalty and say ‘no, I don’t want to be one of the takers’.”
All the boys who put themselves forward to take a pen we are proud of you – takes a form of bravery to step up in such pressurised situations. @BukayoSaka87 @Sanchooo10 @MarcusRashford we salute you boys
— Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) July 12, 2021
One kick won’t define you as a player or person, Marcus. Remember that.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) July 11, 2021
Fans of Rashford took to Facebook to express their love on Man United’s official page.
“What happened last night won’t change my 11-year-old son’s mind about you,” a fan said. “You are his idol, just like lots of other families in England. You have done so much more than last night’s game for lots of people. Thank you! Chin up and smile with pride. You deserve it.”
Another one stated, “I always have a love for this young man! Amazing role model for anyone, let alone other aspiring footballers. Win as a team, lose as a team, we had another 118 minutes to score a second goal and couldn’t, so it wasn’t mean to be!”
The Football Association (FA) released a statement saying: “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.”
“We could not be clearer that anyone behind such disgusting behaviour is not welcome in following the team. We will do all we can to support the players affected whilst urging the toughest punishments possible for anyone responsible.”
England Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the abuse on Twitter. “This England team deserve to be lauded as heroes, not racially abused on social media. Those responsible for this appalling abuse should be ashamed of themselves.”
It is a shame that many will blame the defeat on Rashford and Sancho rather than looking at the bigger picture. After Luke Shaw’s sublime opener in the second minute, Southgate’s side was far too passive and invited Italy to attack.
Equalising in the 67th minute, the Blues looked far more likely to score the winner.
Ex-Man Utd manager Jose Mourinho too was baffled by Southgate’s decisions. “In reality, it’s very, very hard for Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho to come and take a penalty after one touch on the ball. But for Saka to have the destiny of a country on his shoulders, I think it’s too much.”
Rashford will have to make a decision regarding his shoulder surgery which might make him miss a portion of the season.
Meanwhile, Sancho will be looking to complete his medical at Manchester United and start training with the group.
Hopefully, both of them can shrug off the disappointment of the defeat and regroup mentally for the upcoming season with the Red Devils.