Marcus Rashford is one of the Premier League’s most well-known footballers. Having broken into the starting 11 of Manchester United back in 2016 with a brace against Midtjylland, he has stayed there – also racking up almost 40 appearances for England in that time. But, despite his impact on the pitch, it is his work off the pitch which has made the recent headline news.
Whilst the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted people from a wide range of backgrounds and social classes, it is those below or on the poverty line who have felt this impact most. Huge numbers have been furloughed – with many others made redundant – which means that the poorest families are struggling even more than normal to put food on the table. Given the certainty that the current situation will continue into the English summer holidays, even accounting for minor improvements, this would be likely to have a profound impact, leaving many children hungry.
And this is where Marcus Rashford enters the scene. Or, more accurately, where his second piece of campaigning enters. Let’s not forget that, preceding this aforementioned issue, Rashford had already raised over £20 million to supply meals to vulnerable people during this COVID pandemic – an incredible standalone achievement. Then, add in his latest success: his strong and persistent campaigning forcing a government U-turn over providing free school meal vouchers for 1.3 million children over the holidays. I struggle to think of a time where a footballer has had such influence over a matter affecting so many people nationwide.
And one of the reasons why his campaigning has been so successful is because he had been in similar situations as a child. He has come out and spoken about how his single mother struggled to provide for her five children, and the worries this caused for her and the family. This has really resonated with a lot of people, and encouraged more people to donate, as well as the government to listen.
Of course, there are other footballers trying to make a difference, highlighted in a recent BBC article. Juan Mata in particular, who set up Common Goal in 2017 – in which footballers donate 1% of their salary to football charities. And it does have a lot of supporters – over 470 in fact. But you get the feeling that more of the big stars in football – particularly in the Premier League – could and perhaps should be doing more.
The problem is money. Footballers (especially Premier League footballers) are notorious for being on extremely high wages and, as a result, are regularly accused of being overpaid. This was evident at the beginning of the current crisis, when they came under scrutiny for not doing more to help. But now Marcus Rashford in particular has set a fantastic example for his fellow professionals and, hopefully, they will build on this in the future to help those who need it the most.