Saka is consoled by Gareth Southgate after missing his penalty
Credit: GETTY IMAGES
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.
The teenage forward also added his voice to mounting pressure on social media giants to do more to block the epidemic of online racist attacks by trolls.
In his first statement since the defeat to Italy, Saka wrote "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 how their heartache at missing spot-kicks before facing a stream of 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 the likes of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
The 19-year-old Arsenal man, 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."
Gareth Southgate earlier this week took personal responsibility for giving Saka the crucial final penalty. The England manager paid tribute to the youngster for having "brought a smile to so many people’s faces" and "become a hugely popular member of the group" throughout the tournament.
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 as social media firms are midway through handing over background details of all accounts involved.
Chief Constable Mark Roberts, National Police Chiefs’ Council football policing lead, described attacks on players as "utterly vile".
He said the abuse aimed at players "has quite rightly shocked and appalled people across the country".
Meanwhile, Portsmouth confirmed that a screenshot of discriminatory messages about the players had been traced to a group chat linked to the club’s Under-18 Academy.
The club had been alerted to the message after they were shared widely on social media. "We will take appropriate action whenever and wherever we witness any such behaviour, whether at the club or on social media," Portsmouth said on Thursday night.
Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have all faced criticism for not acting swiftly enough to remove hateful posts. Instagram has admitted the app had “mistakenly” failed to flag some racist comments but said the issue had been addressed, while Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would not hesitate to legislate further in order to crackdown on online hate.
Mr Roberts, meanwhile, said the companies are now “working very closely” with the football policing chiefs to identify those responsible.
“The racial abuse aimed at our own players following Sunday night’s game is utterly vile and has quite rightly shocked and appalled people across the country," he said.
“Our England team have been true role models during the tournament, conducting themselves with professionalism and dignity. I’m disgusted there are individuals out there who think it’s acceptable to direct such abhorrent abuse at them, or at anybody else."
Cheshire Police confirmed it had quizzed a 42-year-old man from Runcorn on suspicion of "displaying threatening, abusive or insulting written material that is likely to stir up racial hatred".
Greater Manchester Police has already confirmed a 37-year-old man from Ashton upon Mersey had been arrested over posts. The overall tally of social media-related arrests now stands at five but crowd disorder before and after England’s penalty defeat to Italy sparked an even bigger operation.
By Tuesday, 897 football-related incidents and 264 arrests had been recorded across the country in the 24-hour period surrounding the final.