Marcus Rashford has said he "will never apologise for who he is or where he comes from" after receiving torrents of racist abuse on social media following England's Euro 2020 final loss.
Abusive graffiti on the mural in Withington, Manchester appeared less than an hour after England's defeat to Italy in the Euro 2020 final on Sunday night. It is being dealt with by police as a racist incident.
Rashford missed a penalty along with teammates Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka in the 3-2 shoutout.
Throughout Monday, well-wishers covered the abuse with messages of thanks and encouragement.
Rashford responded in a lengthy statement on social media in which he apologised for his penalty miss in the shoot out.
The forward wrote: "All I can say is sorry. I wish it had of gone differently."
He continued: "The messages I've received today have been positively overhwhelming and seeing the response in Withington had me on the verge of tears."
The message was hidden with black bags which have since been covered with colourful hearts and positive messages that praise Rashford as a "hero".
One message 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."
Amna has launched a petition calling for anyone who commits racist abuse to be banned for life
Another said: "Dear Marcus, please know that you are so admired and people find you an inspiration."
The mural, based on a photograph by Daniel Cheetham and painted by street artist Akse, was created last November in collaboration with Withington Walls, a community street art project.
It was reportedly commissioned in recognition of the Manchester United player’s work to tackle child food poverty.
Chief Superintendent Paul Savill described the racist graffiti as "disgraceful behaviour and will absolutely not be tolerated."
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Rashford lived close to the area with his family before moving to Wythenshawe.
Founder of the project, Ed Wellard says he is "sad and angry" at the defacing.
"That's the really sad thing, that this has become normal... that's what's really sad," he said.
"I don't want this to be the society that I live in."
'That's the really sad thing, that this has become normal'
Rashford's mother provided the quote on the mural, which reads: "Take pride in knowing that your struggle will play the biggest role in your purpose."
Rashford, alongside Sancho and Saka, received a torrent of racist abuse on social media following the loss on Sunday.The messages have been condemned by figures in the footballing world, across the political spectrum, and by the Duke of Cambridge who is head of the FA.
Captain Harry Kane said on Monday evening, those who sent racist abuse are "not England fans," adding: "We don't want you."