Bukayo Saka has admitted that he “knew instantly” he would receive racially abusive messages after missing his Euro 2020 final penalty against Italy but vowed that the experience will not “break me”.
Saka’s failed spot-kick in the shootout ensured Italy won the tournament after Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho also missed at Wembley on Sunday. All three were later subjected to racist abuse on social media and the 19-year-old Arsenal player appealed to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to introduce measures to prevent anyone else experiencing the same.
“I can promise you this – I will not let that moment or the negativity I received this week break me,” he wrote.
“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. For those who have campaigned on my behalf and sent me heartfelt letters, wished me and my family well, I am so thankful.
“To the social media platforms Facebook, Instagram and Twitter: I don’t want any child or adult to receive the hateful and hurtful messages that me, Marcus and Jadon have received. I knew instantly the kind of hate 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 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 to the police and driving out the hate by being kind to one another, we will win.”
On Wednesday Boris Johnson stated that banning orders from games will extend from abuse given in stadiums to online. The prime minister also warned that social media companies will be fined up to 10% of their global revenue if they do not remove abuse.
Of England’s final loss Saka, who posted his statement on Twitter, said: “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.
“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. 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.”
Saka’s post received a swift response from England’s official Twitter feed. It read: “You should be incredibly proud of the role you played in our incredible journey this summer, Bukayo. Sunday will not define you, there’s so much more to come. Keep your head held high.”
A police unit has been set up to investigate a surge in reports of racist abuse against England players. The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) has revealed a hate crime investigation is being run by a dedicated team from the UK Football Policing Unit). The unit, which is working through a large number of reports from across the country, has already submitted dozens of data applications to social media companies, the NPCC said.
Five people have so far been arrested in connection with online abuse directed at England players, with the UK’s football policing lead warning those who posted hateful material: “We will track you down.”