Marcus Rashford has said sorry for missing a penalty following England's Euro 2020 loss - but he will "never apologise for who [he] is or where [he] came from".
The 23-year-old pro footballer and his Three Lions team-mates Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho were targeted with racial abuse online - which was condemned by the likes of Prince William - after the trio missed crucial spot kicks in the final against Italy on Sunday (11.07.21), and while Rashford insisted his penalty "should have gone in", he has vowed to "be back stronger".
In a statement released via his Twitter account, he wrote: "I don't even know where to start and I don't even know how to put into words how I am feeling at this exact time.
"I've had a difficult season, I think that's been clear for everyone to see and I probably went into that final with a lack of confidence. I've always backed myself for a penalty, but something didn't feel quite right.
"During the long run-up I was saving myself a bit of time and unfortunately the result was not what I wanted. I felt as though I had let my team-mates down. I felt as if I'd let everyone down. A penalty was all I'd been asked to contribute for the team. I can score penalties in my sleep, so why not that one?
"It's been playing in my head over and over since I struck the ball and there's probably not a word to quite describe how it feels. Final. 55 years. 1 penalty. History. All I can say is sorry. I wish it had of gone differently.
"Whilst I continue to say sorry I want to shout out my team-mates. This summer has been one of the best camps I've experienced and you've all played a role in that.
"A brotherhood has been built that is unbreakable. Your success is my success. Your failures are mine.
"I've grown into a sport where I expected to read things written about myself.
"Whether it be the colour of my skin, where I grew up, or, most recently, how I decide to spend my time off the pitch.
"I can take critique of my performance all day long, my penalty was not good enough, it should have gone in but I will never apologise for who I am and where I came from. I've felt no prouder moment than wearing those three lions on my chest and seeing my family cheer me on in a crowd of 10s of thousands. (sic)"
Despite the abuse, the footballer admitted he had received many "positively overwhelming" messages following the match - the England football team's first major tournament final in 55 years - and he was "on the verge of tears" after fans in his home town of Withington, south Manchester, decorated a mural of him in positive messages after it was defaced following the game.
He added: "I dreamt of days like this. The messages I've 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.
"I'm Marcus Rashford, 23-year-old black man from Withington and Wythenshawe, South Manchester. If I have nothing else I have that. For all the kind messages thank you. I'll be back stronger. We'll be back stronger."
William - who is president of the Football Association - was left "sickened" after England players were racially abused online following the game.
He tweeted: "I am sickened by the racist abuse aimed at England players after last night’s match.
"It is totally unacceptable that players have to endure this abhorrent behaviour.
"It must stop now and all those involved should be held accountable."
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