England teenager Bukayo Saka has thanked fans for their support following his penalty miss in the Three Lions’ Euro 2020 defeat to Italy on Sunday.
Saka saw his decisive kick saved by Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma in Sunday’s shootout at Wembley, following on from earlier misses from Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho.
All three players were almost immediately subject to vile racist abuse online, which has been condemned by the FA.
And on Thursday Saka broke his silence, taking to social media to post: “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.”
He also sent a direct message to social media platforms who have allowed the racist abuse to take place.
He added: “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”
Saka’s club Arsenal were also quick to release a statement condemning the abuse of the teenager as well as Rashford and Sancho, saying: “Once again, we are sad to have to say we condemn the racism towards a number of black players.
“This cannot continue and the social media platforms and authorities must act to ensure this disgusting abuse to which our players are subjected on a daily basis stops now.
“We have processes in place internally at Arsenal to ensure our players are supported both emotionally and practically on this issue but sadly there is only so much we can do.
“Our message to Bukayo is: hold your head high, we are so very proud of you and we cannot wait to welcome you back home to Arsenal soon.”
Rashford spoke out on Monday night following the abuse, vowing that he wouldn’t change who he is or apologise for the charitable efforts which have angered some, for some reason.
“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,” he wrote on social media.
“I’ve felt no prouder moment than wearing those three lions on my chest and seeing my family cheer me on in a crowd of tens of thousands.”
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Some of England’s more senior players were criticised for allowing Saka to step up and take the fifth spot-kick, with ITV Sport pundit Roy Keane pointing fingers at Raheem Sterling and Jack Grealish, who later insisted that he had wanted to take one.
Southgate said players weren’t to blame though, and the decision was all his.
“I told the players that nobody is on their own in that situation,” he said.
“We win and lose together as a team. They have been tight throughout and that’s how it needs to stay.
“It is my decision to give him [Saka] that penalty. That is totally my responsibility. It is not him or Marcus or Jadon. We worked through them in training. That is the order we came to.
“What they have to know is none of them are on their own. We win and lose as a team. Penalties are my call.
“We worked in training. It’s not down to the players.”