The defacing of a mural of England striker Marcus Rashford is not being considered as racist, according to Greater Manchester Police.
Just hours after England lost the Euro 2020 final, the wall depicting the footballer’s face was damaged with offensive graffiti and it was reported as racially-aggravated damage to officers.
The words "F— Sancho" were scrawled over the huge artwork of the England footballer, painted on the side of a cafe in Copson Street.
The words "s—" and "b——" were also written beside the word "Saka", referencing the 19-year-old player Bukayo Saka whose final penalty miss gave Italy victory.
An offensive drawing was also daubed over Rashford’s face.
Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho, who all missed their penalties, were targeted with racist abuse on social media after the shootout saw Italy lift the trophy.
But Greater Manchester Police said in a statement: "While the content of the vandalism is not believed to be of a racial nature, officers are keeping an open mind as to the motive behind defacing the artwork."
As has been the outpouring of support for the players in the wake of the defeat and abuse, the mural has now been turned into a tribute to Rashford (below) and his teammates with benevolent messages, shirts and flags.
The Marcus Rashford mural
Credit: SNS Group
Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho also missed penalties, and the latter was a target of some of the graffiti on the striking black and white mural which covers the side of the Coffee House Cafe in Manchester.
The mural was quickly restored by street artist Akse, who created the work in recognition of Rashford’s contribution to children’s free school meals during the pandemic.
Rashford, who grew up just a few streets away from the cafe, thanked fans for their support, tweeting: "The messages I have 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 years 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."
No arrests have been made linked to the vandalism, and police said investigators have been conducting "several lines of enquiry including CCTV and forensic evidence from the spray paint used, results for which are expected to be returned in the coming weeks".
Superintendent Richard Timson, district commander for GMP’s City of Manchester division, said: "On Monday morning when we saw the damage done to the mural in Withington we were all left appalled, and we stand with the rest of the community whose solidarity against this vile abuse ever since has really shown the best of our city.
"The person responsible for this knows who they are and we believe there will be others who also suspect the identity of this offender, and I therefore urge anyone with such information to get in touch to help progress our enquiries at speed."