Gary Lineker has sent a message of support to Bukayo Saka after the 19-year-old broke his social media silence on Thursday.
Saka had not spoken since he missed a penalty in England’s Euro 2020 final shoot-out defeat to Italy on Sunday.
But the Arsenal man thanked all those who had sent him uplifting words since the game, while he also slammed Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for not doing enough to stop racist abuse and admitted he felt like he had let everyone down with his spot-kick.
BBC presenter Lineker quickly replied, and told Saka to hold his head up high – using Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as examples of those who have battled back from adversity in the past.
“The future of @England is wonderfully bright,” Lineker said. “Young immensely talented young footballers who are so impressive both on and off the field.
“You’re 19 and had the balls to step up to take a penalty. Even Messi and Ronaldo have missed plenty of them. Feel proud not guilty.”
Lineker was not the only high-profile figure to respond to Saka, with Arsenal legend Ian Wright saying “Love you” and their celebrity fan Piers Morgan adding: “Bukayo, no apology necessary.
“When I was 19, the most stressful sporting thing I did was try (& fail) to break the speed record for drinking a pint upside down in front of 50 villagers in my pub.
“You stepped up in front of 500m+ people. That took incredible guts. Proud of you.”
Saka’s full statement read: “I have stayed away from social media for a few days to spend time with my family and reflect on the last few weeks. This message won’t do it justice how grateful I am for all the love that I have received, and I feel that I need to thank everyone who has supported me.
“It was an honour to be part of an @England squad that leads by example, they are brothers for life and I’m grateful for everything that I have learnt from every one of the players and staff who worked so hard. To help that team reach our first final in 55 years, seeing my family in the crowd, knowing what they’ve given up to help me get there, that meant everything to me.
“There are no words to tell you how disappointed I was with the result and my penalty. I really believed we would win this for you. I’m sorry that we couldn’t bring it home for you this year, but I promise you that we will give everything we’ve got to make sure this generation knows how it feels to win.
“My reaction post match said it all, I was hurting so much and I felt like I’d let you all and my England family down, but I can promise you this.. I will not let that moment or the negativity that I’ve received this week break me.
“For those who have campaigned on my behalf and sent me heartfelt letters, wished me and my family well – I’m so thankful. This is what football should be about. Passion, people of all races, genders, religions and backgrounds coming together with one shared joy of the rollercoaster of football.
“To the social media platforms @instagram@twitter@facebook I don’t want any child or adult to have to receive the hateful and hurtful messages that me Marcus and Jadon have received this week. I knew instantly the kind of hate that I was about to receive and that is a sad reality that your powerful platforms are not doing enough to stop these messages.
“There is no place for racism or hate of any kind in football or in any area of society and to the majority of people coming together to call out the people sending these messages, by taking action and reporting these comments to the police and by driving out the hate by being kind to one another, we will win.
“Love always wins. Bukayo Saka”
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