England's Marcus Rashford said he will "never apologise for who I am" in an emotional statement after receiving racist abuse following the side's Euro 2020 final defeat.
The Manchester United forward was one of three players, along with Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka, who were attacked by racist trolls after missing penalties in Sunday's 3-2 shoot-out defeat by Italy.Rashford's England team-mate Tyrone Mings criticised British Home Secretary Priti Patel, saying she had "stoked the fire" by defending those who booed players taking the knee.
Rashford has become a hero to many outside football by lobbying the British government to provide free school meals for under-privileged children during the coronavirus pandemic.
"I'm Marcus Rashford, 23-year-old black man from Withington and Wythenshawe, South Manchester. If I have nothing else I have that," Rashford wrote in a statement on Twitter.Rashford, who came on late in the second period of extra time, apologised for his penalty miss and said "something didn't feel quite right" when he came to take the kick.
"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," he wrote.
"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 added. Images on social media showed a mural honouring Rashford in his hometown of Withington had been defaced before locals covered the hateful language with messages of support.
"Seeing the response in Withington had me on the verge of tears," Rashford said.He added that he was proud to have worn the England jersey during his side's first major final appearance in 55 years, and grateful for the "brotherhood" that was created in the England camp.