The last few days have been extremely difficult for English soccer star Marcus Rashford and his teammates, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka. At the conclusion of the Euro 2021 Final, Rashford, Sancho and Saka missed penalty kicks on the continent's biggest stage and were the subject of racist attacks in the hours that followed. After hours of facing abuse online, Rashford resurfaced on social media to issue a statement detailing how he's dealt with the crushing defeat and those who insulted him afterward.
"I don't even know where to start and I don't even know how to put into words how I'm feeling at this exact time. I've had a difficult season, I think that's been clear for everyone to see and I probably went into that final with a lack of confidence," Rashford began.
"I've always backed myself for a penalty but something didn't feel quite right. During the long run-up I was saving myself a bit of time and unfortunately, the result was not what I wanted. I felt as though I had let my teammates down. I felt as if I'd let everyone down."
Beyond the world of soccer, Rashford has built up a brand by speaking out against police brutality and leading hunger relief efforts for marginalized communities. His work has garnered the attention of several public figures including former U.S. President Barack Obama. While many admire his philanthropic projects, some used his work off of the field of play as an avenue to suggest Rashford was not focused on soccer. No matter what, Rashford refuses to back down.
"I've grown into a sport where I expect to read things written about myself. Whether it be the color of my skin, where I grew up, or, most recently, how I decide to spend my time off the pitch," he continued.
"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 apologize for who I am and where I came from."
In spite of the racist messages that Rashford has received, a number of fans have gone out of their way to support the soccer star. Most notably, a mural of Rashford was unveiled in his hometown of Withington, Manchester following the match.
"The messages I've received today have been positively overwhelming and seeing the response in Withington had me on the verge of tears," he explained.
"The communities that always wrapped their arms around me continue to hold me up. I'm Marcus Rashford, a 23-year-old, Black man from Withington and Wythenshawe, South Manchester. If I have nothing else I have that."