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First of all, Marcus; you don't need to apologise to anyone. Through your hard work, kindness, maturity and leadership over the past 18 months, you have made our country a better place to live. You inspired millions of us to go out and do good in a time when people needed it most.
Yes, you missed a penalty in a major tournament final but you stood up and took responsibility in the most difficult of situations. That takes courage. The overwhelming majority are proud of the impact you, and your England teammates, have made this summer.
In the grand scheme of things, Marcus, your achievements are so much bigger than football.
The incredible things you have done far outweigh that miss.
If we go back to April 2, 2020, when former health secretary Matt Hancock called on Premier League footballers to "play their part" and take a pay cut to look after others who are less fortunate, you forced prime minister Boris Johnson to make a u-turn and commit £120 million to free school meals.
Just 75 days after Hancock uttered those words, you definitely did more than "play" your part.
Throughout the pandemic, you fought tooth and nail on a subject that hit home. Having received vouchers as a youngster while your mum worked to put food on the table, you made sure that free school meals were made available for around 1.3 million underprivileged children and their families.
The health and welfare of the nations most vulnerable were in jeopardy and a footballer, of all people, was spearheading change.
In October last year, the Prime Minister then said he would not change his policy on free school meals for the Christmas holidays because families are supported by the benefit system. So, when many children around the country were left with next to nothing, you demanded every school pupil in England should be guaranteed one meal per day.
It didn't take long for the government to pledge £400 million of support to provide meals for not only Christmas but Easter and summer holidays, too. That meant the lives of around 1.7 million children were improved because of you and your persistent efforts to do what was right.
You not only raised awareness of the problems many children face on a daily basis but you helped inspire.
You made your voice heard and a nation rallied behind your campaign as cafes and restaurants opened their doors to provide free food. You inspired a generation to help those less fortunate, as primary school children wrote letters of support and raised money to help Britain's poorest.
"Selflessness, kindness, togetherness, this is the England I know."
Blown away by news of local businesses stepping up to fill the voucher scheme deficit during the October half term. Selflessness, kindness, togetherness, this is the England I know :flag_black:
Add #ENDCHILDFOODPOVERTY to your tweets so I can track them. I will share as many as I can :hearts:
- Marcus Rashford MBE (@MarcusRashford) October 22, 2020
Away from the disgusting racist abuse aimed at a number of England players after the penalty shootout, messages of support flooded in following the aftermath of Sunday's defeat.
One letter from 9-year-old Dexter read: "I hope you won't be sad for too long because you are such a good person. Last year you inspired me to help people less fortunate. Then last night you inspired me again, to always be brave. I am proud of you, you will always be a hero."
See, this is how much of an impact you have made amongst people of all ages. And your actions when it comes to fighting for free school meals is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the contribution you have made to society in difficult times.
You launched a Christmas box campaign to encourage the public to support Manchester's growing homeless community and partnered with Selfridges to support shelters around the area, as members of the public were encouraged to fill a shoebox of essential items for those in greater need over the festive period.
After receiving a letter from a young fan, you agreed to judge a poetry competition at a deaf school and, to prepare for the visit, you taught yourself sign language to communicate with the other children. "I'm not sure why this isn't taught in schools."
Flashback Friday in celebration of Deaf Awareness Week. I'm getting there slowly but surely :hearts:
Not sure why this isn't taught in schools ♂️ pic.twitter.com/mji60mxhT9
- Marcus Rashford MBE (@MarcusRashford) May 8, 2020
Millions around the country were then delighted to see you win a special recognition award at the Pride Of Britain awards and again, you showcased incredible humility and modesty that night.
"I am extremely humbled but I'd like to think that I am receiving this award on behalf of all of the incredible people who have selflessly stepped up to support their communities during this pandemic. I have met many of them and I am no more deserving than them."
Earlier this year, you also started a book club for disadvantaged kids. "I only started reading at 17, and it completely changed my outlook and mentality. I just wish I was offered the opportunity to really engage with reading more as a child, but books were never a thing we could budget for as a family when we needed to put food on the table.
"There were times where the escapism of reading could have really helped me. I want this escapism for all children. Not just those that can afford it. We know there are over 380,000 children across the UK today that have never owned a book, children that are in vulnerable environments."
You then released your own book to encourage children to dream big and make a difference. It covered topics such as the value of education, positive mentality, understanding culture and female role models, as well as your own life story to inspire others.
The list is endless. You are a role model to so many people, including England fan Charlie Cox, who recently received a bundle of gifts from his football hero. The 10-year-old, from South London, has battled with a brain tumour for a number of years after it recurred five times, and to celebrate his birthday, he wanted a message.
Instead, he was shocked to receive a PlayStation 5, a signed England kit and a copy of the 'You Are A Champion' book.
Marcus Rashford; your words and actions continue to inspire. You've already done so much to make your nation proud.
Hate will never win.
Featured Image Credit: PA/marcusrashford - Instagram
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