Bukayo Saka has challenged social media platforms to step up their efforts to tackle racism after falling victim to online abuse in the wake of England’s Euro 2020 final heartache.
It was the 19-year-old Arsenal midfielder’s penalty miss which sealed a 3-2 shoot-out defeat by Italy at Wembley on 11 July after the sides had found themselves locked together at 1-1 following extra time.
Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho, who also failed to score, were later targeted on social media, prompting a national outcry over their treatment.
In a post on his official Twitter account on Thursday, Saka wrote: “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.
“To the social media platforms Instagram, Twitter and 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.”
Saka, one of the emerging stars of Gareth Southgate’s side, started three of England’s games including the 2-0 last-16 win over Germany and the semi-final victory against Denmark, and came on as a second-half substitute in the final.
It fell to him to take the fifth spot-kick after Rashford had hit the post with his attempt and Sancho had seen his saved by Gianluigi Donnarumma, but he too was denied by the Italy goalkeeper.
Saka added: “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.”
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.”
Instagram, Twitter and Facebook have been approached for comment.