Despite taking the knee for over a year, you knew what would happen as soon as Bukayo Saka's penalty was clawed away by the giant frame of Gianluigi Donnarumma to give the Azzuri a second continental title and deny England at the last.
Even before Saka's errant spot-kick, there was a sad sense of inevitability once Red-in-waiting Jadon Sancho and very much Red Marcus Rashford failed to convert from 12 yards. Your first thought was "Oh no" - not because it was England but because of the identity of the players. Three young black men had erred when it mattered most - and suddenly the notion that Black Lives Matter was conspicuous by its absence. It said it all when you knew - in 2021 for goodness sake - England's failure would pave the way for their black footballers to be scapegoated and vilified. Rashford's memorial in Withington - a tribute to this finest of young men - was vandalised with disgusting, abhorrent racist abuse. On Instagram, Sancho and Saka were besieged with monkey emojis and language not fit for either these pages or, indeed, anywhere at all.
To these abusers: you are not fans, you are scum. The lowest of the low. To call you people at all is being too polite. It's the minority, the likes of you, that give the rest of us a bad name as football fans and human beings. Get in the bin, get out the country and never come back. We don't want you here. You don't deserve us. Rashford doesn't deserve you. How dare you. What goes through the minds of these sick, twisted, vile, pathetic excuses of a human being to even think of actions like these, let alone carry them through. We can only hope Rashford has a loving arm thrown around him and the country, as a collective, reaches out and pulls him into the warmest of metaphorical embraces. He deserves nothing less. It's been fantastic to see the warmth of feeling the nation has for this man with his newly repaired mural - defaced in the aftermath of Sunday's defeat - showered with cards, messages and an outpouring of love. We are all with you Marcus. The response to the events of Sunday evening have only gone to further illustrate how much of an impact Rashford has had on the nation's conscience over the past year or so.
In Rashford, a young, working class black man from impoverished Wynthenshawe in the leafy suburbs of Manchester's metropolis - the country had found a people's champion during the worst health crisis of this and any other generation. With the UK plunged into the first of three national lockdowns, Rashford took on the government under his own steam in the face of defiance to provide food for our nation's children, setting up his own foundation, doing charity work, helping out at a foodbank with his mum, becoming the face of FairShare and earning an MBE. England took Rashford to their hearts as a rare example of a successful, high earning, high profile celebrity using his exalted status to make a difference to others. Throw in the fact he learnt sign language to judge a poetry competition for deaf children, and his new found expertise as a children's author, and you have a young man with a heart of gold, a role model, an inspiration and a thousand times better a person than any of us mere mortals can ever even hope of becoming. Yet this is the thanks he gets for putting those less fortunate first. He's got nothing to apologise for, but yet the fact he feels he even needs to says it all when it comes to the systemic treatment of coloured people in 21st century Britain. Love will always conquer hate.
He was merely a bit part player in the Euros, only coming on in the dying seconds of the final specifically to take a penalty. Rashford hadn't got a feel for the ball and his ill-fated spot kick was only his second touch but yet he still put his hand up to take that penalty with everything at stake, despite being far from his best and struggling with fitness and confidence. He should be commended, not criticised. If anything, Gareth Southgate - for all his excellent work with the national team - could be apportioned blame for overlooking Rashford (and Sancho to an extent) for weeks but then bringing them on as first choice penalty takers with two minutes to go having barely had a touch. Sorry, but that's setting you up to fail.
Take time off, Rashy, get your injury sorted and come back stronger. The whole of England is with you.
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