In the latest reminder that racism isn’t just a U.S. problem, soccer fans have rushed to defend three young, Black players for the English national team after their misses in a pivotal moment help Italy sneak past the Brits to win the (delayed) 2020 Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) European Football Championship (a.k.a., the Euro). The English Football Association (FA), national team, and even Prime Minister Boris Johnson have condemned the attacks on Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka, and Jadon Sancho.
As the world looked on, Italy and England went toe-to-toe on the soccer pitch. Even after two overtimes and a total of 120 minutes of play, the title match was tied up, leading to penalty kicks — five chances at a goal for each side, one-on-one shooter vs. goalkeeper, most shots made wins. After two attempts, England had a 2-1 lead, both goals made by white players.
But then Rashford pinged a shot off a goal post, a miss. Sancho’s shot was stopped by the Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma with a diving save. Italy had a 3-2 lead as 19-year-old Saka took the decisive final last shot, but was stopped with another diving save by Donnarumma. Altogether, the heartbreaking three misses helped Italy edge past England for the championship.
What followed, both online and off-, was ugly. As CNN and the BBC reported, the players started to receive racist comments on social media. A mural honoring 23-year-old Rashford’s work to end child food poverty was defaced. Meanwhile, according to the BBC, a conservative member of the British parliament has apologized today after sending her colleagues a message effectively saying Rashford should’ve stuck to sports.
“Don’t worry, man, minor setbacks major comebacks,” a user wrote on one of Sancho’s posts. One one of Saka’s posts, users expressed their love and told the teenage star to keep his head up. The same love made its way to Rashford’s Insta, as well, where one user wrote in a comment on a post that the footballer was “a legend no matter what.” And at the mural of Rashford, the offensive defacement was covered up and locals came to post messages of support, as ESPN reported. The love wasn’t limited to fans, either, as English soccer authorities and politicians also spoke out.