Thierry Henry reveals touching “hero” message he sent to Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka
Arsenal youngster Saka missed the decisive penalty in England’s Euro 2020 final defeat to Italy, receiving abuse on social media in the aftermath, but has since received support from club legend Henry
Thierry Henry has revealed his message of support to Bukayo Saka after the youngster received a barrage of abuse after his missed penalty at Euro 2020, in which he labelled the young Arsenal “a hero”.
Saka was one of three England players to miss in the decisive shoot-out as Gareth Southgate’s side lost to Italy in the final, along with Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford, and all three were subjected to racist abuse in the aftermath of the game.
Manchester United and Arsenal both spoke out against the abuse, while a number of arrests were made in connection to the comments directed at the trio.
Former France international Henry has revealed he sent Saka a message at the time, and has shared his feelings on the abuse received by all the England players singled out after the Wembley defeat.
Henry referred back to his own experiences, noting that – even though this kind of thing has happened before and he expects similar to happen again – he still felt sorry for those who bore the brunt of the abuse.
“Whatever problem you have in society, at times you will see it also in the game,” the Frenchman told GQ.
“What did I feel? I knew it was going to happen because it was the trend. It is just something that now, oh, let’s do that.
“So when those guys miss the penalties, I was like, watch how they’re going to get abused. And they did get abused. I felt sorry for them… it could have been me.
“And it was me. And it has been me. And it has been others. And it has been in the past. And it’s still going on.”
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Saka was just 19 years old at the time of the abuse, while Sancho was 21 and Rashford 23.
The Arsenal academy graduate has previously spoken about the influence of Henry on his career, while Henry himself has heaped praise on Saka and teammate Emile Smith Rowe for their achievements this season.
And the relationship between the Premier League winner and the young number seven is emphasised by Henry’s recollection of the conversation the pair had after the Euros final.
“I know Bukayo, so I dropped him a line to tell him that actually for me, you going to present yourself to take that penalty, you are a hero,” the 44-year-old said.
“I didn’t [care] actually, him scoring or not scoring. Even the courage to go in there, to go and take the penalty at his age, for me he’s a hero”
Since playing at the Euros, Saka has returned to the kind of form which saw him called up to the squad for the summer tournament.
He has registered two goals and two assists for the Gunners in the Premier League, while also scoring his first competitive goals for England in wins over Andorra and San Marino.