Bukayo Saka has revealed how he “knew instantly” that he would face a barrage of online hate after he missed England’s decisive Euro 2020 final penalty.
In his first statement since the defeat by Italy, the teenage forward added his voice to mounting pressure on social media giants to do more to block the epidemic of online racist attacks.
Saka said that he was “hurting so much” after missing a penalty but “will not let that moment or the negativity I have received break me”.
Saka, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford have all now detailed their heartache at missing spot-kicks before facing abuse online.
“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,” Saka wrote in a direct appeal to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
The 19-year-old, who was one of England’s most impressive players in their run to the final, wrote in his social media post that “love always wins” as he echoed Sancho and Rashford’s statements that the wave of goodwill towards them outweighed the abuse.
However, he added: “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. 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.”
Referring to missing his spot kick, Saka said in his statement that “there are no words to tell you how disappointed I was with the result and my penalty”.
He added that his “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”.
He issued his statement as police confirmed five suspects have now been arrested over the social media abuse, with more swoops likely in the coming days.
Mark Roberts, the National Police Chiefs’ Council football policing lead, described attacks on players as “utterly vile”. He said the abuse “has quite rightly shocked and appalled people across the country”.
Meanwhile, Portsmouth confirmed a screenshot of discriminatory messages about the players had been traced to a group chat linked to the club’s U-18 academy. “We’ll take appropriate action whenever and wherever we witness any such behaviour,” Portsmouth said.
Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have all faced criticism for not acting swiftly enough to remove hateful posts. UK prime minister Boris Johnson said he would not hesitate to legislate further in order to crack down on online hate.
Elsewhere, Saka’s club Arsenal are interested in signing Chelsea’s £40m-rated striker Tammy Abraham.
Chelsea have already offered Abraham to a number of clubs as part of their search for a new forward. They explored whether Borussia Dortmund would be interested in signing him as part of a bid for Erling Haaland. Abraham has also been made available to Inter Milan and Tottenham, with Chelsea interested in Romelu Lukaku and Harry Kane.
Arsenal are among the English clubs considering Abraham, but are likely to need to sell players to get near the asking price.
Despite growing up in the Chelsea academy, Abraham was a boyhood Arsenal fan. A move to the Emirates is likely to appeal to the 23-year-old, who wants to play regular first-team football.
Abraham has been Chelsea’s top scorer in each of the past two seasons, but was frozen out by head coach Thomas Tuchel after the German’s arrival in January.
Alexandre Lacazette’s contract is due to expire next summer and Arsenal would be open to offers for the French forward to try to help fund a bid for Abraham. (© Telegraph Media Group Ltd 2021)
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