In the match between Liverpool and Manchester United, the eyes are also fixed on the forward United Rashford today. Over and over again, he addresses social issues with Johnson’s government – and fans celebrate him for his commitment.
Annette Dittert, ARD-Studio London
Marcus Rashford was a star before helping starving children in the poor north of England. Soccer star. And much more is not possible in England, which is obsessed with the sport.
But now he is a hero to many. Because unlike so many personalities who like to keep their faces in the camera for a good cause, Rashford acted – and did it sustainably. He repeatedly attacked the London Conservative government for its failed social policy. Polite but persistent in this matter, for the first time in early summer 2020, he pointed out that an estimated 1.7 million hungry children in the UK go out at night. In one of the richest countries in the world, at least it’s amazing.
Even more surprising, however, in the midst of the first wave of pandemics, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government simply wanted to cancel free school lunches – the only hot meal of the day for many of these children – during the holidays. Rashford attacked on Twitter. There, his more than four million followers could read how antisocial found the move. Johnson tried to play the ball: the free school lunch was canceled and that was it. There is no money for that. The goal itself – because what followed was unprecedented.
Rashford said of himself: How his mother could not feed him like a little boy without these school lunches. He spoke of the poverty that surrounded him in Wythenshawe, a suburb of Manchester, where he grew up and where he still visits regularly. Rashford’s story quickly gained a wider audience, even outside of social media. Because it is rare on the island that someone who has reached the top will not forget or suppress the misery of their childhood.
Poverty is a stigma in this England, where the gap between rich and poor is ever greater than ever before. But Rashford broke the taboo. Than ARD-Team stopped in Wythenshawe for a report in the summer of 2020, meeting people for the first time who were suddenly no longer afraid to talk openly about their needs in front of the camera. The stigma was blown away. And at the entrance to the village was a huge sign: “1: 0 for Marcus Rashford!”
Because Johnson had to change course shortly before: school lunches were reintroduced. There was a cordial phone call between Rashford and Johnson, suddenly on Downing Street. Johnson’s initial opposition to Rashford’s initiative was never mentioned at any press conference. However, the Prime Minister did not seem to learn much from this episode, so the game was repeated before the autumn break. This time it was ugly – this time the Conservative Party tried to destroy Rashford’s reputation.
Deputies publicly discredited him as a moral apostle. They didn’t want to show him this time. Rashford countered, again polite but hard, so easily leaving the Tory attacks wild. When the Army of Food Chains sided with Rashford and threatened to enter a food gift, Johnson collapsed for the second time. Attacks against the superstar just didn’t work.
Because Rashford’s commitment is not the commitment of a moral apostle: not only does he speak, but he also acts. He helps with food packaging, talks to families, which shamelessly show him how he tries to survive on the verge of existence. He has become the proud public face of what conservatives are trying to sweep under the rug: the child poverty on the island that has resulted from the socially ill-considered policies of the past few decades.
A book club has been established
The seriousness of the situation was also shown by the fact that UNICEF began supporting communities in south London in December by donating money for food packages. A measure that was otherwise rejected as a political ploy by the Conservative Party. Rashford published all this. And not only that: in the autumn, he founded a digital books club to help British children with spiritual nutrition through a pandemic.
How he manages to score goals on the side is a mystery to many on the island. But Rashford does the same – extremely successfully. Only in October, at an important Champions League match against Paris, St. Germain, scored a decisive goal for his club Manchester United.
A 3-0 win against the Conservative government should also not be long in coming. Because Rashford has made it more than clear that he’s not just a serious opponent on the green lawn.