Marcus Rashford has been all over the news, and deservedly so.
The Manchester United striker began a fantastic campaign last week, all starting with a tweet asking who to contact about the government’s food voucher scheme. What started as a simple social media question grew into one of the most influential footballer-led campaigns in recent memory- except it didn’t start there.
The British government has been providing food vouchers so children can have free school meals, when their families may not be able to cover food costs. Yet when they recently announced that this wouldn’t continue beyond the end of the school year next month – despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic – something had to be done.
Rashford wrote an open letter to all 650 MPs on Monday, asking the government to reverse their decision and continue the scheme throughout the summer. It was a call for political action on behalf of the British government, one which gained remarkable traction across social media and the media.
Just 37 hours after he published his letter, his plea was answered.
The government announced it is reversing its decision and will continue its food voucher scheme, which will feed over a million British children over the school holidays. To say that Rashford’s hard work is incredible is an understatement, and quite simply doesn’t say show how momentous this is.
Because of a 22-year-old footballer’s campaign on social media, 1.3 million children will be able to eat free meals in the UK. Because of the actions and good will of a man from Wythenshawe, families will be able to have one less concern in putting food on the table for their kids.
Because of Rashford, the British government went back on their own decision.
This is the perfect example of using your platform for the greater good, to enforce real change. Something we have seen through a number of English footballers in particular: Raheem Sterling, Jadon Sancho and now, Marcus Rashford.
There cannot be enough praise and admiration for the Manchester United forward, as someone who had to endure these same hardships as a child and wants to ensure the next generation do not have to share those same experiences. But this latest collaboration of football and politics proves one thing above all: they cannot be separated.
It is one of the most common things you hear about the game. “Football and politics should never mix”, “Football and politics don’t go together”, “Football and politics have to stay separate”. But in this world we live in, with injustices, issues and controversies surrounding our daily life, how can the beautiful game stay out of it?
Let it sink in. It took a footballer, someone who is paid to kick a ball, to ensure that a million children can get substantial meals. No child should ever go hungry, but this nation needed one of England’s brightest stars to remind the government of this, and to make them change their mind.
What if Rashford hadn’t spoken out? Would the government had made this same decision? Would they even have considered changing their mind? It’s concerning to think what would’ve happened without his actions, but we can be grateful for what has happened because of them.
This is one of many examples of football mixing with politics, and what it means not only to the world as a whole, but to the world of football. Look at these last few weeks alone, for example. The Black Lives Matter movement has always been critical, and has gained even more traction thanks to the players.
Whether it was Borussia Mönchengladbach’s Marcus Thuram taking a knee after he scored, Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho revealing a ‘Justice for George Floyd’ message under his shirt, or Schalke’s Weston McKennie wearing an armband in tribute of the murdered Floyd, these have all been powerful statements.
Even if their individual acts only made a small contribution to the fight for justice, their significance cannot be undermined.
Footballers using their influence and exposure to make a statement, show solidarity or help others is the best possible use of their platform, and they can make a direct impact on politics, as proven by Rashford’s latest victory. If football and politics were separated, real change would not be able to be driven by those with a true platform.
There are always calls for players to use their platforms effectively, and hopefully Rashford’s actions will cause a new domino effect among the football world. More players feeling encouraged to speak up, stand for what they believe in and strive to cause real change, utilising their influence in the best way possible.
In a time where we are faced by challenges nationally and globally, it’s never been more important for these two worlds to co-operate. In the midst of a global pandemic, following extreme political unrest and division in the UK, Rashford made sure that those most affected by Covid-19 were not left behind.
This act of kindness, strength and determination proves that football can make a real change, and it can prove meaningful to wider society.
Now, there is no better time for football and politics to become intertwined.