It’s not often that a footballer bends a government. Marcus Rashford happened there twice.
As the Covid-19 pandemic raged, he twisted the arm of Boris Johnson’s Conservative government to continue providing free meals to children over the summer.
And before Christmas 2020, his media intervention had again forced the conservatives to back down.
A fight that had its roots in his personal history and the efforts of his mother, Melanie, to feed her five children.
« I know what it’s like to be hungry. 10 years ago, I was one of them, » he wrote in a column in the daily The Times.
It earned him to be done Member of the British Empire (MBE) by Queen Elizabeth II, in October 2020, an extremely rare honor when you are only 22 years old.
And yet, nine months later, « Saint-Marcus », as he was nicknamed, became the target of a torrent of insults, mainly racist, after his missed shot on goal against Italy, in the final of the Euro.
« It’s never good to be a victim of racism as an individual, it’s not good for anyone, » he explained at a press conference on Sunday, while dismissing any anger.
« It’s pretty much just disappointment. We’re disappointed that people have these kinds of ideas. »
« Finding My Own Happiness »
After playing with a shoulder injury for the rest of the season, Rashford chose to have surgery after the final. He went through the 2021/2022 season, catastrophic for Manchester United, like a ghost, losing his place in the selection.
Last summer, at almost 25, he decided to take charge of his career.
« I think, for me, it was just about rediscovering my own happiness“, he explained to the microphone of the British channel ITV, after the match against Iran.
While his fellow footballers recharge their batteries in preparation for a dense and busy season, he leaves for Oregon, at the performance center of his equipment supplier Nike.
After extensive analysis and through intense exercises, he modifies his sprint posture, identifies the best side to turn over according to his field of vision and reduces the number of massages he receives, so that his body relearns to self-regenerate…
Back sharp as ever, he has since impressed under the orders of Erik ten Hag with the Red Devils.
A small physical glitch prevented him from finding the Three Lions in September for the end of the League of Nations, but he is still called up for the World Cup.
« I’m on the hook »
And against Iran, 48 seconds after entering the game and on his very first national team ball since the missed shot on goal 16 months ago, he scored the 5th goal of a 6-2 victory.
Against the United States (0-0), he also played the last quarter of an hour, while waiting for better.
« I’m on the job (…) I started on the bench, but I’m just waiting for an opportunity to show myself, » he admitted, while savoring his return to grace.
« Honestly, I’m just happy to be able to enjoy playing my football, » he said on Saturday, « it felt good to see the guys again after being away for so long. »
Accustomed to the ebb and flow of public opinion, the boos at the end of the draw against the United States did not move him more than the concert of praise after Iran.
« It’s football. When we win, we are the best team in the world and when we lose, we are the worst, » he swept away.
« You don’t need to be booed to know you didn’t play the game you should have, » he added.
« But we want to win matches, we want to score goals, we want to play attacking football. And if we can do it in a fun way, that’s really what we want, » he said.