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Updated on: Tuesday, June 16, 2020, 11:06 PM IST

With great power comes great responsibility: How Marcus Rashford ensured children in UK won’t go hungry

Marcus Rashford | Photo: Twitter/ @MuitaMpoucoF

Marcus Rashford | Photo: Twitter/ @MuitaMpoucoF

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We don’t realise what something means until it has been taken away from us. Just like we didn’t realise how much football meant until we could no longer watch it every weekend. But then we saw another side of football, one we didn’t know existed. And we saw just how football could drive change.

But first a little background. One of the grandest of Manchester United traditions involves youngsters coming through the ranks and proving they can make the cut in the biggest stage. David Beckham. Ryan Giggs. Paul Scholes. Paul Pogba.

But perhaps none of them did it so dramatically in the post-Fergie era as Marcus Rashford. Facing a serious shortage of strikers, Louis Van Gaal was forced to add an 18-year-old Marcus Rashford in the squad in a Europa league tie with Midtjylland in 2016. Since then Rashford has been a revelation, both on and off the field.

King of Debuts

When Anthony Martial pulled up in the warm-up, it meant that the world was going to discover the genius of Rashford. There was a lot of talk of Marcus Rashford amid the United faithful, particularly on football forums.

There are few joys in sports, nay life, in seeing a talented youngster suddenly burst onto the scene. Rashford’s debut was reminiscent of Cristiano Ronaldo’s against Bolton Wanderers many years ago. He was all over the place scoring a brace. After that it became impossible to keep him out and he couldn’t stop scoring in his debuts.

He got a double against Arsenal in his Premier League debut and scoring in his England debut against Australia. Strangely, he made his U-21 debut after his England debut and showed he was way above that league by scoring a hat-trick against Norway U-21. He also managed a debut goal in the FA Cup against Northampton.

Next season, he would score on his Champions League debut against Basel as well marking a remarkable achievement.

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Early life

Rashford was born in Manchester of Kittitian descent, and was inducted into the Manchester United academy at the age of 7. Interestingly, his mother sent him to live at United’s digs when he was 11, and as a youngster he idolised the Brazilian Ronaldo who he watched in Champions League semi-final against Manchester United in which the Brazilian scored a hat-trick. Interestingly, it was the same game that saw excited Roman Abramovich so much that he was desperate to buy a football club, and ended up picking Chelsea.

Later years

Despite his young age, the burden of United’s goal-scoring appeared to fall on the youngster who was handed the number 10 shirt after Zlatan Ibrahimović’s departure. Wayne Rooney also wore the same shirt in his time.

In the 2019-20 season, he appeared to be finally living up to his potential scoring 16 goals in 20 appearances including a Ronald-like free-kick before a double stress fracture ruled him out of the season. However, that was before corona appeared to put a halt on the Premier League season.

Yet it was during the lockdown that Rashford showed what a footballer could do for his community. While UK Health Minister Matt Hancock, going far beyond his brief, asked Premier League footballers to take paycuts and contribute.

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Taking a U-turn

However, Rashford took a sledgehammer to the lazy generalisation of Premier League footballers by first raising GBP 20 million for a charity to feed kids and then convinced the Boris Johnson-led UK government to spend an extra GBT 120 million on free school meals during the summer holidays for needy children.

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The British government, despite the buffoonery all around, couldn’t turn a deaf ear to the plea of one of the world’s most well-known footballers who had already fed 400,000 children.

In a stunning letter to every MP in England, Rashford wrote: “I don’t claim to have the education of an MP in parliament, but I do have a social education.”

He had written: “As a black man from a low-income family in Wythenshawe, Manchester, I could have been just another statistic. 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 The government has taken a “whatever it takes” approach to the economy – I’m asking you today to extend that same thinking to protecting all vulnerable children across England. I encourage you to hear their pleas and find your humanity. Please reconsider your decision to cancel the food voucher scheme over the summer holiday period and guarantee the extension. This is England in 2020, and this is an issue that needs urgent assistance. Please, while the eyes of the nation are on you, make the u-turn and make protecting the lives of some of our most vulnerable a top priority.”

Rashford knows poverty first-hand and a day after resisting the calls, Boris Johnson made a volte-face. Rashford’s campaign drew support from a host of celebrities and will ensure that 1.3 million children in England from lower-income families would be eligible for free school meals.

And on the bright side, when football returns this week, Marcus Rashford has also recuperated to start again for Manchester United. But it doesn’t matter how many more goals he scores this season; he has already shown the change footballers are capable of.

And Manchester United and football fans across the globe will know they have a true hero amid their midst, who already showed at a tender age that with great power, comes great responsibility.

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Published on: Tuesday, June 16, 2020, 09:39 PM IST
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