One of our community reporters, Lesley Downing from Bury, has paid a visit to the Marcus Rashford mural in South Manchester and shares her thoughts below.
We went to see the Marcus Rashford mural on Sunday. Just wanted to share the moment, and post a message.
I was surprised by how modest it was, just down a side street off an ordinary shopping street in Withington. Modest and ordinary.
We got there mid-afternoon and only stayed for about ten minutes. When we arrived there were around 15 people standing back, taking photos and selfies, reading the messages. There was a respectful hush, not silence, but quiet, reflective, similar to the mood you get in a cathedral, where people stand in wonder and share their thoughts and impressions.
The messages, now spilling onto the street, necessitating the closure of the road, ranged from individual post-its, through hand-written messages on cardboard, to poster size banners compiled by primary school children and their teachers. All messages of love, support, respect, gratitude and…. well awe.
Marcus Rashford is 23. From a fairly normal, but challenging background he has grown into a world-class footballer and a nationally and internationally recognized campaigner for the underprivileged and vulnerable.
So – world-class footballer, from early childhood he has lived and breathed the sport. To paraphrase Jimmy Anderson, eat, practice, sleep, repeat. That is how he lives his life. Every single minute of that commitment has led him to play for one of the most prestigious teams in the world, and for England, World Cup and Euros.
But that wasn’t enough for him. He watched his mother struggle to keep her family fed and clothed. He’s now probably one of the richest 23-year-olds in this country. It didn’t sit right.
In 2019 he helped set up the ‘In the Box’ campaign with Selfridges, to provide essential items for the homeless over Christmas. Then he went out with his mother and helped deliver them around GM.
In March 2020 he went along to Fareshare to make a donation, spoke to their CEO and decided just giving his money wasn’t enough and decided to lend his full support. This resulted in over £20m being raised, which help feed children not just in GM, but nationally.
But still not enough, so he personally took on the government, resulting in changes of policy on providing free school meals.
He has received plaudits from many corners of the globe, including Barak Obama, and has been awarded the MBE. And he doesn’t show any signs of stopping.
So, July 11th 2021. He steps up, volunteers, puts himself forward for the most perilous task in his beloved game. Afterwards, the team, manager, media and I am sure the vast majority of fans support him in his anguish and self-criticism.
And one individual, who stands up for nothing and remains anonymous because they are unwilling to be known, chooses to scrawl demeaning epithets on his mural.
They are saying now that it was not racially motivated. I have not mentioned once in this piece that Marcus is black. He is an incredible human being and an absolutely brilliant role model for all children, all people. And he has achieved all this as a black man in an often hostile environment. He has probably received racist abuse countless times all through his career – which started age 6. And he has stood up, and stood tall, proud of what he is and what he has achieved.
And he has done more for vulnerable children, black, white, Jewish, Muslim, Christian than can be properly be understood. It isn’t just the money, the food, it’s the awe-inspiring powerful message he sends out, just by what he does, every day, with every fibre of his being. A black man in a white world.
The messages on the mural, the people leaving them and admiring them, were from all backgrounds, races, religions, ages. The defacement was a single act of miserable hate. Slink away little person.
Just as we left four teenage black girls were gigglingly taking selfies of themselves and Marcus, a somewhat ordinary and modest boy. Their hero.