”My life was far from a fairytale.” Marcus Rashford’s words hit hard, but this is the hard truth. Because Rashford had to work hard to become a role model and an inspiration, a bona-fide star for England and Manchester United, setting up an example for his country.
Yet his journey from a small kid in Manchester, which family had to sacrifice almost everything to have something on the table, to a superstar widely known not only for his football antics was not a slam-dunk. No, it required some good breaks, plenty of sacrifices and a lot of confidence.
Growing up in Wythenshawe, in a working class family, with two brothers and two sisters, life was difficult for Rashford and his siblings. His mother, Melanie, had to work multiple jobs and even skipping meals to put some food on the table for her children.
“I had three jobs and if I didn’t do that we wouldn’t have been able to cook a pot of food, it’s just a bit difficult. So Marcus is only telling the story from how he sees it and the words he has been saying come from the bottom of his heart. Sometimes it was really bad, I’d rather give the food to the kids than give it to myself, sometimes I didn’t get anything to eat,” said Rashford’s mum, Melanie Maynard, according to the BBC.
Now, only a few years removed from the hardship, Rashford is shining at Qatar 2022, just two years after being appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in October by Queen Elizabeth II, for his excellent campaign where he gave children free school meals, scrapped by the British government.
His brace against Wales, in England’s 3-0 win that ensured safe passage to the knockout rounds, just reminded everyone who Rashford really is. In January 2021, Rashford was named the most valuable footballer in the world with a transfer value of £150m, according to the research group CIES Football Observatory. But his last years have been full of ups and downs for both club and country, with fans turning against him after dips in his form.
Missing a crucial penalty in July 2021, in the shootout of the UEFA EURO 2020 final against Italy, which saw England miss out on silverware on their home stadium, Wembley in London, was another low point for Rashford, which saw his confidence diminish even lower.
Yet Rashford stayed true to himself and remembered how difficult his childhood has been. He bounced back and his form was stabilised, scoring eight goals in 19 matches this season for Manchester United, earning up a call in Gareth Southgate’s side for Qatar 2022.
“Sometimes we didn’t even have a loaf of bread in the house – it’s embarrassing to say, but we didn’t. All the little struggles and the sacrifices that my mum made, it helps you appreciate everything like 10 times more, so I don’t see it as a weakness. I think in sport you have to have something behind you that is pushing you. When you come from a place of struggle and pain, a lot of the time it switches and it becomes your drive and motivation,” said Rashford according to the BBC.
He never forgot his past, so in 2019 he set up a campaign, “In the Box” to give homeless people essential items over the Christmas period. He and his mother visited homeless shelters to personally hand the boxes out, while also sending some to a children’s home in his grandmother’s home country of Saint Kitts and Nevis.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck and free school meals were scrapped in the UK by the Government, Rashford felt the urge to make a pledge. His Twitter thread quickly became viral and made a pledge to donate and be the image of a campaign that continued to provide free meals to children.
Over 400.000 people raised roughly £20 million, with four millions meals provided by the FareShare poverty and food waste charity. Later, Rashford announced that he had set up the Child Food Poverty Task Force in collaboration with several UK food shops, manufacturers, charities and delivery companies.
The campaign, which had moved through the British Parliament, was a huge success, and the authorities provided £400 million to support the cost of food and household bills to poor families.
But the English striker did not stop here. Empowered by the success of his previous campaign, Rashford tackled the child illiteracy, himself never being able to read properly until he was 17 years old. He wrote his own book, “You Are a Champion”, in collaboration with journalist Carl Anka and in June 2021 he launched the Marcus Rashford Book Club in conjunction with Magic Breakfast and Macmillan Children’s Books to encourage a lifelong love of reading and give free books to underprivileged children.
“I didn’t actually start reading until I was 17. We didn’t have books at home, nor did we have the environment to read books. My mum worked three jobs, so I found my freedom outside kicking a ball around. It was hard for me to engage with books at the time. Very few characters looked like me, and my life was far from a fairytale. That experience set the foundations for what we needed from the book club – representation, acceptance and acknowledgment. Every child should pick up these books and feel like they were written for them,” said Rashford for “The Guardian”.
An MBE, 15 goals in 49 matches for England and over 100 goals for his club, Manchester United, where he played since the start of his career. At 25 years old, Marcus Rashford is an accomplished man. From rags to riches, the story is amazing.