‘Pictures left me feeling overwhelmed’: Rashford speaks of support as new mural unveiled

Marcus Rashford has spoken of how a Manchester mural and its “outpouring of support really lifted” him at one of his “lowest points”, as a new tribute was painted on the wall of a community football clubhouse reading: “Hope Beats Hate”.

The new mural in south Manchester links to a digitised archive of the messages left on the one showing the footballer’s face a couple of miles away in Withington.

Rashford said that the outpouring had reinforced his belief in the “strength of community” and he wanted to capture that feeling and “bank it for more people to experience”. It followed racial abuse levelled at the striker online, and vandalism of the original mural, after he missed a penalty in the Euro 2020 final this month.

Commissioned by Withington Walls, the community street art project behind the Rashford mural, in conjunction with BT’s Hope United, the new mural and digital “wall of hope” will be unveiled on Friday when the physical messages were due to be taken down, although a downpour on Thursday evening means that council archivists say some will take longer to preserve.

Ed Wellard, cofounder of Withington Walls, which he says was “swept into the tsunami” of support, wanted to channel the sentiment of many messages posted such as “Love 1 – Hate 0”. The Rashford mural “initially painted for one purpose – to celebrate Marcus’s work on child poverty” then took on a “new meaning which was all about love”. The player said in a statement that “the endless pictures being shared of visits left me feeling really overwhelmed”.

He added that he hoped the messages – which he said were not just his, but belong to everyone – “can bring joy to many for months to come”.

A civil engineer, Wellard describes himself as an accidental spokesperson for the Rashford mural after getting up early to cover up the vandalism. After pulling together the new project in seven days, he will also play the role of handyperson by drilling on a vinyl covering to protect the QR code that visitors can scan to view the digital archive of photos of each message left on the wall. Everyone else can view it online at bt.com/wallofhope.

The young artists behind the design, Oskar with a K and Katie Jones, live locally. Oskar with a K described the work as a manifestation of “openness and people wanting to support each other” that says “this is what we’re about [in Manchester]”. Jones said she managed to avoid seeing the online racist abuse directed at Rashford and his teammates because it was drowned out by positive messages – the hope actually beating the hate.

Jones said the style of handdrawn letters channelled “people power”. “It shouldn’t feel like we used stencils, it should feel like we stood in the sun and sweated and painted.”

Wellard said he initially had a degree of trepidation about accepting corporate sponsorship as the “integrity of the projects” were important to the group. However, he said the BT Hope United campaign was important, as was the artists retaining creative control.

The campaign will also support Kingsway Athletic FC in renovating their new clubhouse. The local team in Levenshulme, which Wellard’s son plays for, had just moved into a dilapidated building in Cringle Park. He described the club as “a nurturing environment for south Manchester children, like Marcus Rashford”, which teaches the girls and boys on the team that playing is not just about winning but about respect.

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