England forward Marcus Rashford has penned an emotional open letter apologising for missing a penalty during the shootout in the final of Euro 2020.
Rashford, who carried a shoulder injury throughout the tournament and consequently had only made fleeting appearances, was brought on at the very end of extra time alongside new Manchester United teammate Jadon Sancho to take a penalty.
Neither player had touched the ball before picking it up to put it on the spot with England one up in the shootout after Harry Kane and Harry Maguire had scored and Italy’s Andrea Belotti had missed.
However, Rashford’s stuttered run-up backfired and although he sent the goalkeeper the wrong way, the ball hit the post. During the following kick, Sancho saw his saved to flip the shootout on its head before Bukayo Saka missed the decisive penalty to see Italy crowned champions.
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And Rashford, who has been a hero in the community this year, raising millions of pounds for underprivileged children and rallying the government to provide free school meals to those children, posted an emotional letter of apology 24 hours after the heartbreak of the shootout.
He, along with Sancho and Saka, has received abhorrent racial abuse online in the hours after the defeat, which has been widely condemned.
He wrote: “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.
“I’ve always backed myself for a penalty but something didn’t quite feel 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. A penalty was all I’d been asked to contribute for the team, I can score them in my sleep so why not that one?
It’s been playing in my head over and over since I struck the ball and there’s probably not a word to quite describe how it feels. Final. 55 years. One penalty. History.
“All I can say is sorry. I wish it had gone differently.
“Whilst I continue to say sorry, I want to shoutout to my teammates. This summer has been one of the best camps I’ve experienced and you’ve all played a role in that. A brotherhood has been built that is unbreakable. Your success is my success. Your failures are mine.
“I’ve grown up in a sport where I expect to read things written about myself. Whether it be the colour of my skin, where I grew up, or, most recently, how I decide to spend my time off the pitch.
“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 apologise for who I am and where I came from.
“I’ve never felt prouder than wearing those three lions on my chest and seeing my family cheer me on in a crowd of 10s of thousands. I dreamt of days like this.
“The messages I’ve 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-year-old, black man from Withington and Wythenshawe, South Manchester. If I have nothing else, I have that.
“For all the kind messages, thank you. I’ll be back stronger. We’ll be back stronger.”