A mural of Marcus Rashford has become a symbol of love and solidarity, after hundreds of well-wishers covered it with messages of support.

The wall art in Withington, south Manchester, was defaced within hours of England’s shattering defeat to Italy in the Euro 2020 final, as the footballer and his teammates Bukayo Saka, 19, and Jadon Sancho, 21, suffered a torrent of racist abuse online.

Ed Wellard, the founder of Withington Walls, the community street art project behind the mural, kept the graffiti covered up until Tuesday morning when he returned to repair the damage – watched by dozens of supportive locals.

Soon, hundreds of visitors flocked to the site leaving letters, flags, flowers and banners in tribute to the 23-year-old sporting and social justice star.

Rashford responded to the outpouring by saying he was “overwhelmed” and “lost for words”.

And so here at indy100 we’ve rounded up some of the most moving notes to show why he was left speechless:

Football, politics, everything: You are an inspiration

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This simple note is a reminder that Rashford is not only an icon on the pitch, but his hard work combatting food poverty and illiteracy in England has helped millions of children and families across the country.

You’ll never walk alone

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Admittedly this phrase is more commonly associated with Liverpool FC, not Rashford’s own club Manchester United, but it gains a new level of poignancy here.

The 23-year-old “champion” is reminded that he helped united football fans of all stripes during the Euros tournament, and that he has the love and support of millions of people who will always stand by him.

Thank you for all our dinner

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This message, written by six-year-old Reggie, is evidence of the human impact of Rashford’s campaign work.

Thanks to him, more than 1.7 million vulnerable children were supported by a £520million Government scheme to extend free school meals through the school holidays last year.

(We’re not crying, you’re crying.)

You removed this stigma

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Barely visible on the right, this note shows that Rashford’s impact is not only material – in providing meals, books and financial support for those in need – but also mental.

Speaking openly about his own childhood – during which he relied on free school meals and his mother often went hungry to ensure her kids had enough to eat – has changed people’s perception of food poverty for good, showing that struggling is nothing to be ashamed of and that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

You let us believe

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Again, sometimes the simplest messages are the most meaningful. Rashford has inspired millions of people to believe that anyone, no matter what their background or circumstance, has the potential to achieve their dreams.

Thank you for using your voice for those who don’t have one

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Rashford hasn’t sat back on his laurels as one of the country’s most successful sportsman, he has done everything he can to help low-income and disadvantaged families. In other words, he has been their spokesperson, their “voice” – and it has been heard.

You don’t have to apologise for anything

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Although many of Rashford’s tributes were written by young admirers, this is a reminder that he’s inspired people of all ages. Here, 75-year-old Hazel is responding to the striker’s post-Euros statement in which he apologised for “letting everyone down” during the decisive penalty shoot-out.

She insists he has nothing to be sorry for. Indeed, his work off the pitch should leave him with an immense sense of pride.

We love Rashford, Saka, Sancho

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Of course, given that this is a mural dedicated to the Manchester icon, most of the messages are directed towards him. However, scores of well-wishers also offered tributes to Saka and Sancho, who have also been hideously harassed on social media since their unsuccessful penalty attempts in the final.

Whilst Sancho also plays for Man Utd, Saka is one of Arsenal’s most promising young talents. It’s not every day you see United fans share their “love” for a rival team’s player, so this is testament to the unifying impact the past few days – and weeks of the tournament – have had.

Our 3 cubs will turn into 3 roaring lions

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Lest we forget, Rashford, Sancho and Saka are still so young, and yet the weight of the whole nation was placed on their shoulders on Sunday night.

As many commentators and pundits have pointed out, they are still at the start of their footballing careers. They have many more years to come, many more memories to forge, and many more successes to achieve over the coming years.

We will never let the haters win

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The most important takeaway from the Euros is that true fans show pride and support, not anger and abuse, as this young supporter so beautifully demonstrates:

Those who have spread their vitriol are being condemned and hunted down, facing the prospect of being banned for life from all England football games.

Clearly, the country – and the world– has a long way to go in combatting racism. But given the reaction from the overwhelming majority of the population over the past few days, we can be hopeful that love – not hate – will win in the end.

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