It’s been an utterly depressing 24 hours for English football.
The BBC now reports that a mural in the city depicting Manchester United’s Rashford has been defaced with racist graffiti.
Greater Manchester Police has launched an investigation into the racially aggravated damage.
In an appeal for information, Chief Superintendent Paul Savill said, “Hate crime in any form is completely unacceptable and not welcome here in our city.”
As compelling as the game undoubtedly was, it was almost entirely engulfed by the toxic circus that overshadowed it.
From borderline riots in Leicester Square to the images of hooligans fighting their way into Wembley, it was a dark day for both the sport and the country.
Football would surely like to think of itself as an inclusive safe space for people of all walks of life to celebrate together. That’s what it should be. It’s the people’s game – it belongs to everyone.
You could be forgiven for thinking that seems like a remote fantasy today.
The saddest aspect of all this could be the predictability that, after months of knee-bending being weaponised by divisive politicians, racist abuse would almost inevitably follow the missed penalties.
This is a country that has always loved a scapegoat. And sending an angry, ignorant, spiteful message takes much less effort than making an effigy to hang off a lamppost.
Sadly, English football – and society in general – seems about as far-removed from the spirit of inclusivity it needs to flourish than at any point since the grim nadir of the 1980s.
If there is a glimmer of hope to be had, it’s in the well-wishes and words of support that have since been stuck over the defaced section of the mural.
United have summed it up perfectly with the following Tweet:
“We’re all behind you, Marcus Rashford.
As a player. As a person. As an inspiration to our club and our supporters. As a representation of hope that there is plenty more good than bad in the world.”
We're all behind you, @MarcusRashford.
As a player. As a person. As an inspiration to our club and our supporters. As a representation of hope that there is plenty more good than bad in the world ❤️#MUFC #ManUtd #Rashford pic.twitter.com/qPRxrKQXEz
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) July 12, 2021
Recurring phrases like “Hero” and “wonderful human” show that decent people will continue to rise up against this kind of vile, hateful behaviour.
And decent people everywhere recognise that, in Marcus Rashford, the club has been blessed with the perfect role model and ambassador. He’s one of a kind and the fans will show him that the next time he steps over the white line at Old Trafford.