Football star Marcus Rashford dedicated his MBE to his mother as he vowed there is more to come in his campaign to help disadvantaged children.
The England and Manchester United striker said his motivation is to give the nation’s youngsters the things he did not have when growing up and stressed every child deserves an “opportunity”.
He described as “brilliant” the public’s outpouring of affection and support for himself and England teammates, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka, after they were subject to racist abuse following the national team’s defeat in the Euro 2020 final to Italy.
And with his team experiencing a “bad spell” of form that threatens the future of manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer he stressed the players were still playing for the “badge”.
Rashford waged a high-profile campaign last year to persuade the Government to provide free meals to vulnerable youngsters in England throughout the school holidays during the coronavirus pandemic, forcing Prime Minister Boris Johnson into a U-turn.
Speaking after a Windsor Castle investiture ceremony, the striker said he would be giving his MBE to his mother Melanie who raised him and his four brothers and sisters and joined him at the ceremony hosted by the Duke of Cambridge.
He said: “It seems like there’s a lot going on but for me to put it in the simplest way – I’m trying to give children the things I didn’t have when I was kid. If I did have, I would have been much better off and had many more options in my life.
“I’m just giving them the opportunity and I think they deserve the opportunity what child doesn’t. For me it’s a punishment for them not to be getting things like meals or supplies of books.”
Accolades have already been bestowed on the footballer, with the striker becoming the youngest recipient of an honorary doctorate from the University of Manchester, which he received last month in recognition of his campaign against child poverty.
Rashford will also be honoured with a special award at the Sports Personality of the Year ceremony on December 20, after the judging panel unanimously agreed his work off the pitch should be commended.
The England forward has maintained his drive for social change by forming a child food poverty task force, which has linked up with some of the UK’s biggest supermarkets and food brands.
He has also teamed up with Macmillan Children’s Books to launch a book club to promote reading and literacy among youngsters from all socio-economic backgrounds.
Rashford said the MBE will raise the profile of his work and put it under more scrutiny, but he still has more he wants to do.
He added: “For me it’s good, but nothing changes at the same time – I still have goals and dreams that I want to accomplish and I will keep working hard to make sure I do that.”
The Manchester United star is unusual in launching his campaign while still playing but he stressed: “Why wait? There’s no point waiting. Kids are suffering, families need help and they’re not receiving the help that they need.”
Rashford went on to praise his mother for the support she has given him despite being a single parent: “So all the awards I’ve achieved for my charitable work have all gone to her and this one will join them as well.
“Without her I wouldn’t have the morals that I have because everything I’ve learnt, I’ve learnt from her.
“She’s the reason I’ve got this so she should have it.”
William, who is president of the Football Association, was hosting his first investiture in more than 18 months and he tweeted he was “pleased to be back” carrying out the ceremonies in person.
Rashford had a brief chat with the duke and told him how communities came together to say the abuse he and teammates Sancho and Saka suffered after missing penalties in the Euro 2020 final was “not right”.
He added: “Obviously it’s not nice in the moment but after looking at the response and how people came to support the three players that got abused and support the team, I’ve never experienced that before in football, that was brilliant.”
With his team suffering defeats to key rivals Liverpool and Manchester City in recent weeks, the club and manager are under intense pressure to get results.
The striker added: “The Man United team is the Man United team and we all play for the badge and the club, something for me I’ve dreamed of since I was a kid.
“And for the players that we sign they see Manchester United as the great club it is, and they want to give everything they can for the badge.
“And those things remain the same whether you’re in good spells or bad spells.
“I know at the moment we’re in a difficult patch but the desire and ambition never changes.”