Footballers often get a bad rep. Especially at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic when some thought that high-earning players should take a pay cut.
But in the past couple of days, an unlikely hero has emerged from the dugout, and his name is Marcus Rashford.
The 22-year-old Manchester United and England striker has become an icon after he petitioned the government to do a u-turn and extend the scheme for free school meal vouchers for vulnerable children over the summer.
On June 10, Rashford asked his 2.9m Twitter followers: ‘Anybody know who I can talk to about the Government food voucher scheme?’.
He then wrote an impassioned open letter addressed to all MPs in Parliament which outlined his argument, as well as his own experience of growing up in a working class area of Manchester with a single mum and four siblings.
‘As a black man from a low-income family in Wythenshawe, Manchester, I could have been just another statistic’ he wrote in the letter. ‘Instead, due to the selfless actions of my mum, my family, my neighbours, and my coaches, the only stats I’m associated with are goals, appearances and caps. I would be doing myself, my family and my community an injustice if I didn’t stand here today with my voice and my platform and ask you for help.’
It was the beginning of a successful campaign #maketheUturn, during which Rashford, who has previously partnered with the food distribution charity FareShare, urged people to tweet and write to their local MP to raise awareness. As he said, ‘People want to help’.
The footballer also drew praise for urging MPs to overlook any political loyalties and focus on the important matter of protecting the country’s most vulnerable children: 1.3million children in England are currently registered for free school meals.
‘This is not about politics; this is about humanity. Looking at ourselves in the mirror and feeling like we did everything we could to protect those who can’t, for whatever reason or circumstance, protect themselves. Political affiliations aside, can we not all agree that no child should be going to bed hungry?’
In the past, footballers would have been encouraged to focus on the game. But Rashford represents a new generation of players for whom activism is important, and who see their platform as a chance to impact change.
And while you’re now probably more likely to see his name bookended by heart emojis rather than football stats, Rashford’s campaign has proven the power of activism right now. That writing to your MP and speaking out about issues that are important to you can make a huge difference.
‘You have to do something…I’m a young black person who was struggling in the system but managed to find a way out and help my family,’ he told BBC Breakfast.
I don’t even know what to say.— Marcus Rashford (@MarcusRashford) June 16, 2020
Just look at what we can do when we come together, THIS is England in 2020.
‘But now that I’ve done that it’s about helping the families that need you most. I think it’s important to have a voice, it’s one thing thinking about it and writing them down in your house but if you don’t get that message out to the people, and to the people higher up that can possibly change the way things are going, then there’s no point having those thoughts whilst you’re sat in your house.’
We’re here for your Marcus Rashford.
And yes, we might watch Manchester United take on Tottenham tomorrow night. Just for Rashford, and his game-changing activism.
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