A vandalised mural of England footballer Marcus Rashford has become a symbol of love and solidarity, the man behind the street artwork said after hundreds of well-wishers covered it with anti-racism messages of support.
The mural in south Manchester, was defaced within hours of England’s loss to Italy in the Euro 2020 final, in what police are treating as a racist incident.
Ed Wellard, the founder Withington Walls, the community street art project behind the mural, covered the graffiti up until Tuesday morning when the artist returned to repair the damage – watched by dozens of supportive locals.
The mural, on the side of a cafe in Withington, has seen hundreds of visitors leaving notes, flags, flowers and banners in support of Rashford.
As street artist Akse P19 put the finishing touches to the repairs to his mural, watched by dozens of locals and onlookers, Mr Wellard said: “There’s been an outpouring of kind of love and solidarity and it’s really heartening.
“It’s a lovely thing isn’t it? I watched the footage with my friends and saw those penalties being missed and all I felt was empathy and compassion for those young men, they’ve done themselves proud, on and off the pitch.
“I gave my 11-year-old boy a hug because he was crying and I wanted to give the players a hug.”
The word “f***” was scrawled over the huge artwork and the words “shit” and “bastard” were also written beside the word “Sancho”, referencing another of the players who missed a penalty to give Italy victory in the Euro final.
Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho, who all missed their penalty spot-kicks in the final, were targeted with racist abuse on social media after the game, escalating a political row about racism in both football and society.
On Monday, Mr Wellard tried to paint over some of the abusive graffiti before covering the rest with bin bags before Akse could return to make good on the damage.
A spontaneous online crowd-funder for the mural has now raised more than £30,000, which Mr Wellard said will be used for further artwork.
He said he was upset at finding the vandalism and believes politicians need to “raise their game” on racism.
He added: “It was horrible, I was a bit teared-up. I was upset about the result anyway and the scenes we had seen at Wembley and stuff, it felt like a dark day for English football.
“And then to come out and see what had been written, it was repugnant, it was horrible.
“I wanted it covered before the kids went to school. No one should be seeing that.
“We’ve got politicians that are trying to divide us, we need to come together.
“That team came under criticism from our Government for taking the knee. So clearly at the very top we need to address that kind of attitude.
“We had the MP from Dover, Elphicke, criticising Rashford. That’s not acceptable.”
Rashford thanked fans for their support on Monday night, tweeting: “The messages I have received today have been positively overwhelming and seeing the response in Withington had me on the verge of tears.
“The communities that always wrapped their arms around me continue to hold me up. I’m Marcus Rashford, 23 years old, black man from Withington and Wythenshawe, South Manchester.”
The mural, based on a photograph by Daniel Cheetham, was created last November in recognition of Rashford’s work to tackle child food poverty.
His mother provided the quote on the mural, which reads: “Take pride in knowing that your struggle will play the biggest role in your purpose.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and England manager Gareth Southgate led the condemnation of those racially abusing black England players.