Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford dedicated his MBE to his mother as he vowed there was more to come in his campaign to help disadvantaged children.
The 24-year-old England international said his motivation was 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 team-mates Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka after they were subjected to racist abuse following the national team’s defeat on penalties in the Euro 2020 final against Italy.
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 player said he would be giving his MBE to his mother Melanie, who raised him and his four siblings 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.
“And if we can all come together to make these small changes – they are small changes but they become big changes once you see the rewards of it – I see a generation that’s coming after me as a very special generation. They just need a bit of guidance and pointing in the right direction and what I’m doing is giving them that.”
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 BBC Sports Personality of the Year ceremony on December 19, 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, saying: “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.”
Rashford had a brief chat with William, who is president of the Football Association, and told him what it meant to see communities come together to unite against the abuse he and team-mates Sancho and Saka suffered in the summer.
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.”