Marcus Rashford: Manchester United star on free school meals, being a black role model, and Premier League return
Rashford 'ready' for Manchester United return against Tottenham, live on Sky Sports on Friday night; Kick-off 8.15pm
By Blake Welton
Last Updated: 17/06/20 11:55am
Marcus Rashford says his generation are "not afraid to stand up and be counted" after he successfully campaigned to extend the free school meals scheme for the summer holidays.
The £15-a-week food vouchers will now be made available to around 1.3m children in England for a further six weeks after the Manchester United forward pressured the government into reconsidering scrapping the initiative following the ease of coronavirus restrictions.
Having grown up in one of the poorest areas of Manchester, Rashford knows only too well the effects that food poverty can have.
Speaking exclusively to Sky Sports ahead of the return of Friday Night Football, Rashford said: "You don't know the extent as to how it's affecting people if you've not been through it.
"I've seen first hand how it can spiral out of control. People can end up on the streets by not having meals for days.
"It wasn't just the food situation I was thinking about when I was raising the awareness, but mental health - the general well-being of people and families.
"It might not seem like a big thing but not eating the right amount of meals every day can have a real impact on your life.
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"These things make a big difference, not only for the children, but the parents as well and it's one less thing they have to worry about.
"I was one of the lucky ones because I had people that would help my family out a lot and when my mum was working, I knew I could go round to a friend's house to get fed.
"So there were ways around it for me but from a young age, I understood that there weren't ways around it for everyone."
'We're not afraid to stand up and be counted'
Rashford has already raised more than £20m for charity after partnering with FareShare during the lockdown period and has also been involved in a number of other charitable initiatives in the past.
It has led him to be described as 'more than just a footballer' - such as an icon and a black role model - although this is something the 22-year-old is quick to play down.
"It's not possible to just do it on your own. The main thing is it's not about me but those affected and I'm just happy everyone has come together," Rashford added.
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"It's more a generational thing and this generation, we are not afraid to stand up and be counted which is a positive thing.
"People are willing to make that first step and I think the first instance of that was Raheem (Sterling) and how he was racially abused and stood up to that.
"That was a turning point for a lot of people being heard and it's definitely changed the view on how to deal with situations in sport.
"So there are a lot of different people who have stood up and said what they think, which is important to make change and it starts within the sport - football is a massive sport and a good way to spread positive messages."
'I'm ready to get back to my best'
Rashford admits the attention he has had over the past few days is a different kind to that of playing for Manchester United and he readily admits he cannot wait to let his feet do the talking again.
The Premier League resumes this week following three months off due to the coronavirus pandemic and for Rashford it has been an even longer absence - the forward has been out with a back injury since January.
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However, the player has used the time to fully recover and is now determined to get back to the level he was at before the injury - starting away to Tottenham on Friday night, live on Sky Sports Premier League.
"The timing worked well for me. I've been able to use the time to let it heal properly and I'm confident in my body again and ready to be playing games," Rashford said.
"It was more of a mental challenge to make the next step (in my game) and once I did that, I felt I could perform on a more consistent basis which happened from November, December onwards.
"It's one thing knowing you have ability, another thing doing it on a consistent basis and once you start to do it, it then becomes normal.
"It's going to be a different sort of feeling playing without fans and that drive when you are down or tired will have to come from yourself or one of your team-mates now."
- 64 live games on Sky Sports from provisional restart date of June 17
- 25 games to be made freely available
- New Sky Sports digital innovations also planned to enhance fan experience
The Premier League 2019/20 season will provisionally restart on Wednesday June 17 and Sky, the UK's leading football broadcaster, will make 25 games available 'free to air' - including Everton vs Liverpool on the first full weekend back - for everyone in the UK to enjoy.
Sky Sports will show 64 live Premier League games when the season resumes. In addition to the 39 matches already scheduled to be broadcast exclusively live on Sky Sports before the coronavirus interruption, 25 more matches will be available on both Sky Sports Premier League and Sky's free-to-air Pick channel, allowing the whole nation to be part of the return of live sport.
To celebrate the return of the Premier League, Sky Sports will also launch a host of innovative new features and updates to give fans an even more immersive experience and share the moments live with family and friends on virtual platforms.