Marcus Rashford may be a talented sports star who, aged 24, already has an MBE to his name, but he by no means sits back and puts his feet up.

The Manchester United and England footballer, who picked up the award at an investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle on Tuesday, has used his platform to tirelessly promote social justice, and he has often suffered as a result.

Regularly subjected to streams of online abuse, he refuses to back down on the causes he believes in, writing in one social media statement earlier this year that he will “never apologise” for who he is.

One thing is clear, he will carry on fighting for what is right, and will not renounce his moral compass for an easier life.

So, after collecting his MBE - which he dedicated to his mother - we’ve rounded up just some of the moments over the past year-and-a-half which prove what an inspiration Rashford truly is:

1. Child poverty letter to MPs

We must, of course, begin with Rashford’s ground-breaking work to tackle child poverty.

In June 2020, he wrote an “open letter to all MPs in Parliament” urging them to push the Government into changing its policy on free school meal vouchers over the summer holidays.

It ended up being one of the most discussed topics on Twitter of 2020, with his powerful message becoming the third most retweeted post of the year.

It also culminated in a U-turn by Boris Johnson and relief for millions of children and families across the country, as well as an MBE for the then 22-year-old striker.

Later, in October, he launched a new petition pressing ministers to again extend free school meals through the half-term and Christmas holidays, eventually pressuring them into providing £170 million of extra funding.

In all, his efforts led to 1.7million vulnerable children being supported by a £520million Government scheme, and the delivery of 130 million meals via other projects.

2. Rashford’s response to his campaign’s success

The young sportsman didn’t respond to his success by claiming credit, instead he emphasised the power of community.

After Downing Street announced a one-off £120 million fund to benefit children in England over the six-week summer period, here’s what Rashford tweeted:

3. His BBC Sports Personality of the Year speech

Not only was Rashford awarded an MBE in October’s delayed Queen’s Birthday Honours list, he was also handed a special award at one of the country’s most prestigious sporting ceremonies.

Accepting the Panel Special Award at the event in December, the striker said everyone in the country has a duty to give young people “the best chance at life”.

He used his speech to look back at his childhood, during which his mother would sometimes go hungry to ensure her children could eat.

“Growing up as a kid I felt if it was a 100 metre race I started 50 metres behind everybody else,” he said.

“It was more difficult for me to do the basic things like getting to training, eat the right things, it was a nightmare of a situation to be in, but in the end I got to where I needed to get to.

“Once I got there I just had this thing that eats at me saying, ‘Make sure you make a difference for the next generation’.

“I think as a country we should protect them as much as we can and give them the best chance at life and become whatever it is they want to become.”

4. Getting a Blue Peter badge

When you’ve been awarded an MBE and lifted the most prestigious trophies for your football club what other accolades could you possibly need?

A Blue Peter badge, of course.

Rashford was presented with the show’s prestigious gold badge in February alongside Greta Thunberg (who said she will treasure the item, keeping it “in my room”).

The gold badge is awarded to only a small number of people each year for having “accomplished great things, inspired a nation, saved a life or shown bravery and courage”.

Previous recipients include the Queen, Sir David Attenborough, Dame Mary Berry, Raheem Sterling, Tim Peake and the late Captain Sir Tom Moore.

Speaking on a video call, the footballer said of his award: “I appreciate it greatly – I am happy that I’m able to spread positive messages and show a side of me that people might not know of.

“A lot of what I do is not for me, I just want to give people the best chance to be the best they can be.”

Rashford looked delighted with his prizeBBC

5. Helping people in need behind the scenes

Whilst Rashford has been rightly recognised in public for his anti-poverty work, a lot of his efforts slip beneath the radar, as his brother Dwaine Maynard revealed.

In an interview with the WSJ Magazine in March, Maynard explained that the 23-year-old used to drive around and hand out cash to homeless people and low-income families in the local community.

Maynard said his brother only stopped doing his rounds when he advised him to look for other ways to make a difference.

“It’s actually not very safe for you to stop your car and do that," Maynard told him at the time. And he was probably right.

6. Topping the Giving List

Footballers haven’t always been known for their philanthropy, nor are 20-something-year olds often praised for their generosity, yet, earlier this year, Rashford became the youngest person to top the Sunday Times Giving List.

The list reveals the top 20 individuals and families who have donated the largest proportion of their wealth, as part of The Sunday Times Rich List.

The Man Utd player, who now has a personal wealth of £16 million but once relied on free school meals himself, topped the leaderboard in May by raising £20 million in donations from supermarkets for groups tackling food poverty in the UK.

If that wasn’t enough he also personally helped charity FareShare distribute four million meals to vulnerable children during the pandemic.

FareShare’s chief executive Lindsay Boswell said at the time that the 23-year-old’s “own experience of relying on free school meals to eat, brings authenticity and compassion to his campaigning, and his status as a Premier League footballer, means people and politicians sit up and take notice.”

7. Launching a child reading initiative – and his own inspiring book

Rashford isn’t just committed to filling children’s stomachs, he wants to feed their minds, too.

In May, he launched a new initiative alongside the National Literacy Trust, WH Smith and Macmillan Children’s Books to ensure every child has access to their own book at home.

He also published his own book titled ‘You Are A Champion: How To Be The Best You Can Be’. According to his publisher, the manual aims to show “no matter who you are and no matter where you come from, every single person in the world has the potential to be a champion.”

8. Chatting to Obama

Seeing two of our favourite people chatting and laughing together has to be one of the highlights of the year.

Just days after the release of his new book, Rashford met virtually with Barack Obama for a wide-ranging conversation, covering everything from reading, to cooking to their shared experience of being raised by single mothers.

Following the conversation, the 23-year-old admitted he was just as star-struck as we would have been. He confessed it was “quite surreal” to have been speaking to the former US President “while sitting in my kitchen in Manchester”.

But, he added: “It wasn’t long before I realised just how aligned our experiences as children were in shaping the men you see today – adversity, obstacles and all.

“I genuinely enjoyed every minute of it. When President Obama speaks, all you want to do is listen.”

Meanwhile, Obama shared his own admiration for the England international, saying: “When you look at the history of big social movements and big social change…. it is usually young people who initiate this because they do not take for granted things have to be as they always were and can imagine something different.

“From what I have read about what Marcus is doing, he is taking his own experiences and realised: ‘I have now been blessed, I have the good fortune of being this prominent footballer and people pay attention to what I say’.”

9. Message to Raducanu

Rashford found the time to offer his support to tennis star Emma Raducanu after she was forced to cut her Wimbledon dream short this summer.

The 18-year-old reached the last 16 on her debut at the All England Club, but breathing problems and dizziness forced her to withdraw from her match against Australian Ajla Tomljanovic early – ending her impressive run.

The footballer took the opportunity to share some words of encouragement to the budding tennis icon. He wrote in a reassuring message:

Raducanu responded with gratitude, saying: “Thanks so much for the kind words, this message means a lot to me. I’ll keep building and be back stronger!”

10. Post-Euro 2020 statement

Rashford suffered a barrage of racist abuse, both online and in the streets, after England’s shattering loss to Italy in the Euro 2020 final.

A mural in his honour was defaced in Withington, Manchester, and his social media pages were smothered in the most vile forms of verbal harassment.

But rather than share his fury or hurt at the response, the 23-year-old responded with characteristic poise and wisdom.

He wrote in a lengthy statement that while he was profoundly sorry for missing a crucial penalty in the match, he would “never apologise for who I am and where I came from”.

“I’ve felt no prouder moment than wearing those three lions on my chest and seeing my family cheer me on in a crowd of 10s of thousands. I dreamt of days like this,” he said.

Referring to how the defaced mural has since been festooned with hearts, flags and tributes, he continued: “The messages I have received today have been positively overwhelming and seeing the response in Withington had me on the verge of tears. The communities that always wrapped their arms around me continue to hold me up.

“I’m Marcus Rashford, 23 years old, black man from Withington and Wythenshawe, South Manchester. If I have nothing else, I have that.”

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