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The family of a 10-year-old England fan with a brain tumour say they were “gobsmacked” to receive a surprise signed shirt from Marcus Rashford.
Charlie Cox, from Cheam in Sutton, south-west London, was delighted to receive a shirt from Rashford, his favourite England player, as well as a PS5 and game.
Charlie, whose brain tumour has recurred five times, was shocked to receive the gifts from Rashford after his aunt Laura contacted the Manchester United and England star on Twitter last month.
Rashford has received thousands of messages of support after he and two other Black England players were subjected to online racist abuse following the team's loss to Italy in the Euro 2020 final on Sunday.
Watch: Vandalised Marcus Rashford mural covered with messages of support
The social media pages of Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Buyako Saka were targeted after they all missed their penalties in the decisive shootout.
A mural of Rashford in his home town of Withington, Manchester, was vandalised after the game, but the graffiti has since been covered up by supportive messages from members of the public.
On Monday, Rashford said sorry for his penalty miss but that he “will never apologise for who I am and where I came from”.
Following a number of seizures, Charlie was just eight months old when he was diagnosed with an oligoastrocytoma grade 2 brain tumour and has endured two surgeries, chemotherapy and countless hospital appointments, many at the Royal Marsden Hospital in Sutton, for almost 10 years.
He had an eight-hour surgery to remove the tumour when he was 11 months old.
But two years later, in April 2014, an MRI scan showed the tumour had returned and he underwent 18 months of chemotherapy.
Nine months after finishing chemotherapy, he suffered a relapse and had his second surgery in November 2016.
Although Charlie recovered well, an MRI scan showed a growth in the tumour in July 2019 and he had a 12-month course of chemotherapy.
A further MRI scan last May showed a growth in the tumour and Charlie is currently on another course of chemotherapy.
During Euro 2020, Rashford tweeted that Charlie is a “superstar”.
Charlie’s parents, Glen Cox and Kirsty Court, said the signed shirt and games console gifts were “unbelievable” and an “extremely kind gesture” from player.
Cox, a police officer, said: “Marcus is very down to earth, he comes across as very humble from his upbringing and how that’s helped his progress in life.”
Court said of her son: “He was having seizures from the age of three months and we didn't know what it was until he was eight months old.
“The last thing you want to hear is that your son has got a brain tumour.
“I remember thinking we were going into hospital the day before the surgery and I could potentially be leaving the hospital without him.”
Charlie's treatment was made particularly difficult by the coronavirus pandemic, with only one parent permitted to accompany him in hospital.
Rashford, 23, was hailed as a hero last year after his campaigning forced the government into a dramatic U-turn on its free school meals policy.
Tory MP Natalie Elphicke was forced to apologise on Monday after she sent a private message after the Euro 2020 final suggesting Rashford should have spent more time “perfecting his game” than “playing politics”.
Also on Monday, Rashford’s England teammate Tyrone Mings hit out at home secretary Priti Patel, who had previously said players taking the knee before games was “gesture politics”.
Patel had condemned the racist abuse of the three England players, but Mings tweeted: “You don’t get to stoke the fire at the beginning of the tournament by labelling our anti-racism message as ‘Gesture Politics’ and then pretend to be disgusted when the very thing we’re campaigning against, happens.”
Watch: England footballer Tyrone Mings hits out at Priti Patel over 'gesture politics' claim