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British police arrest 11 in probe of Euro 2020 racist abuse of Black players

England’s Bukayo Saka, center, is comforted after he failed to score the last penalty during the penalty shootout of the Euro 2020 soccer championship final between England and Italy. (Frank Augstein/AP)

LONDON — Eleven arrests have been made over racist abuse targeted at three of England’s Black soccer players during last month’s Euro 2020 final, British police said Thursday, as part of a broader probe that investigated hundreds of such comments made on social media.

Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Bukayo Saka were bombarded with online abuse after they missed their penalty kicks during the nail-biting final against Italy at London’s Wembley Stadium. England lost 3-2.

The National Police Chiefs Council football policing lead, Chief Constable Mark Roberts, said in a statement that a “vast amount of work” went into identifying those arrested and that the “complexities of investigating social media abuse cannot be underestimated.”

Roberts said the investigation was unfolding “at pace.”

Following the loss, which crushed the hopes of Brits who believed the tournament would result in a win after more than 55 years since the country reached a major men’s final, fans took to social media to highlight the racially charged remarks and monkey emoji being left on the accounts of the players.

England continues to reel after racist reaction to Euro 2020 loss

At the time, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, England manager Gareth Southgate and Prince William — who serves as the president of England’s Football Association — condemned the abuse along with more than 1 million people who signed a petition to ban racists from matches for life.

Police said 600 racist comments were sent to their football policing unit, with just over one-third of those identified as criminal.

Of the 207 comments judged to be criminal, 123 came from social media accounts outside Britain, authorities said, adding that details had been passed on to the relevant countries for their own authorities to handle appropriately. British authorities thanked Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for cooperating with the investigation, but said they were still waiting on the social media companies to share more information.

So far, 34 accounts were identified as being in the U.K.; 11 of those account holders were arrested.

“There are people out there who believe they can hide behind a social media profile and get away with posting such abhorrent comments,” Roberts said in the statement, as he urged trolls to “think again.”

“We have investigators proactively seeking out abusive comments in connection to the match and, if they meet a criminal threshold, those posting them will be arrested,” he said.

In a suburb of Manchester, the city Rashford also plays for, a mural dedicated to the star was defaced shortly after England’s loss. Locals and fans flocked to the scene with messages of love and support for the star, who said in an emotional statement he “felt as if I’d let everyone down.”

At the scene of the monument in Withington, not far from where the player was raised as a child, people held signs that read “Black Lives Matter.”

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