Label volunteer writer Alec Reed discusses how Marcus Rashford has used his platform as a national athlete to create social change in a difficult time.
“Stick to football.”
That is the phrase often uttered by those unaccepting of footballers like Marcus Rashford and their attempts to involve themselves in social change.
But now, it appears that this phrase has reached its lifespan, as the Manchester United star makes yet another stride in his fight against child hunger in England; with his work off the pitch being universally recognised as a force for change.
But this topic of debate has lasted long past the usual 90 minutes for Rashford and has instead been in conversation for nearly four months now.
Marcus Rashford is fighting a battle which has existed far before this month, before the pandemic and even before the birth of myself and the England international. The remnants of Thatcherism lay prominently within the economic crises that we face today and show a clear disregard for the failings of the past; instead providing quick fixes.
With Marcus Rashford at the forefront of this campaign, it once again shows the elephant in the room; that footballers can be a clear figure of change. We have seen that notion in this year more so than any which has preceded it; with the coronavirus pandemic, Black Lives Matter movement and now with Marcus Rashford’s recent work, it once again is a striking example of footballs power and influence in bringing society together.
But a phrase that has become oh so prominent between Brexit-Brigade twitter users and tabloid media in recent times, is “virtue signalling.” This points to the argument that Rashford is not doing this for change, and instead merely to raise his public image and garner more media attention and sponsorship; to which I say, is a load of rubbish.
Rashford as the Figurehead
Marcus Rashford, was one of those children who benefitted from free school meals – as was I. It comes with a lot of shame, but hopefully Rashford’s work will smash that stigma straight into the back of the net. It will allow those who benefit from it to not feel worried when collecting their lunch and divert the stares and sneers away from something which should never deserve scrutiny.
Being from the background he is from; he has always had the odds stacked against him. In a society where systematic racism dwells deep within most if not every major social institution going, Marcus Rashford was never expected to break the mould.
Rashford, is one of many current and former players who have risked their image and job through want of a better life for many in society, but sadly their achievements and eloquence in speaking out against injustice should not be confined to campaigning within football.
The media, particularly tabloid, are often quick to shoot down footballers who speak out, thus perpetuating the “stick to football” mindset. But it seems, in this case, that Marcus Rashford’s campaigning has instead united many across the nation. In an era of character assassination in the media, Rashford is instead being rightfully celebrated, in the way Raheem Sterling should have when speaking out about racism in previous years.
History of the Debate
Children going hungry should not be a topic of debate, the fact of the matter is, is that we should not allow over one million children to go hungry. How we go about doing that, is simply a matter which can and should be addressed by the government themselves. It seems apparent from their most recent in a series of U-turns, that they do have the money, as shown by their pledge of a £170m Covid winter grant scheme as well as an extension of activities and programmes, which is why such a debate is sparked. But this comes in a time when they have rewarded contracts worth hundreds of millions which we are yet to see the benefits of; so where is the money going?
Tupac put it simply but brilliantly, when he said, “they got money for wars, but can’t feed the poor”, a phrase which is relevant across time and across one society to the next.
In a country where meritocracy is so dearly adored, it’s surprising to see a government not back the support of one of the most symbolic examples of it. Marcus Rashford – a young, black male who came from one of the largest public housing estates in England, is now at the very top of his game, and trying to utilise his influence for the better of those who are in the position he was once in.
Marcus Rashford has done the seemingly impossible – and has driven a movement which will benefit both the current and next generation, and spin perception on those from low-income households.
The New Member of the British Empire
It seems the that fight is far from over for Rashford, his campaigning does not seem to be stopping, and power to him; deservedly being awarded an MBE for his actions. The fight against child hunger, should not be a topic of debate, but simply a unified cause for change.
His MBE should serve a reminder that “stick to football” is a phrase which serves no purpose, and we should aim to bridge the gaps between arguably two of the biggest social behemoths; football and politics. It should not be reminder of what footballers are capable of, but what human beings are capable of. His petition surpassed a million signatures, one of only five to do so. It showed in some light, that this country can be “United” every once in a while.
More athletes like Marcus Rashford to use their platform, and we as a society need to promote and support that through want of a better future.
Edited by: Lois George (Sports Editor)
Header by: Frankie Stevens (Head of Design)