Defaced following the Euro 2020 final, the mural of footballer Marcus Rashford is now being restored in Manchester. Street artist Akse, who originally created the mural last year, has described the vandalism as “unacceptable” in the wake of the racial abuse received by some players.
Last Sunday (11 July) the England team was defeated by Italy in the long-anticipated final, with Rashford missing a penalty in the last few minutes of the shootout. Soon after the loss, an unknown offender graffitied several swear words on the mural in Rashford’s hometown of Withington. Greater Manchester Police are examining CCTV footage from the area and forensic evidence from the spray paint to track down the culprit.
The local community swiftly responded to the vandalism, pouring in to leave hundreds of heartfelt poems, posters and messages for the player. One young fan who added his message of support to the mural said “he’s a great player, so I don’t get why he should get this hate for one penalty miss.”
Ed Wellard, who commissioned the artwork as part of the Withington Walls street art project, said that he hoped “something positive might come of it.” Within hours the Withington Walls’ crowd-funder to raise money to repair the mural vastly exceeded the original target.
The outpouring of support for Rashford also followed the appalling racist abuse he and England teammates Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka suffered online after the final. A police spokesperson commented “while the content of the vandalism is not believed to be of a racial nature, officers are keeping an open mind as to the motive behind defacing the artwork.”
Rashford thanked fans for their support, 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.”
Akse painted the mural as a response to Rashford’s campaigning against child food poverty in the UK. The artist noted that it was “really overwhelming and really cool to see the community coming together.” Depicting a monochrome portrait of the player, the mural includes a quote from Rashford’s mother, which reads: “Take pride in knowing that your struggle will play the biggest role in your purpose.”
The messages of support for Rashford will be retained, recorded and if possible displayed either nearby or on the mural. Wellard concluded “it’s evolved into something really special, hasn’t it?”