‘Life has not been the same without football’

Who’s the real leader? Rashford 1-0 Boris, read a cheeky sign yesterday.

Does football do more for society than politics? The Premier League returned last night, a day after Marcus Rashford scored a triumphant victory over the government on free school meals.

“When will football be back?” For some people, this has been the single-most important question during the Covid-19 pandemic. Any global economic recovery can come later.

Last night, 100 days since the last ball was kicked in anger in the Premier League, the sport returned as Aston Villa kicked off against Sheffield United.

It felt different. Grounds will be empty for the rest of the season. The shouts of players could be heard, rather than being drowned out by the crowd.

This week, the game scored a huge victory as a campaign by Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford forced a government U-turn, meaning 1.3 million children will be able to claim free school meal vouchers in the summer holidays.

Football has shown its social power during the pandemic. Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich made the club’s hotel available to NHS staff free of charge. Brighton has pledged 1,000 free tickets for health workers for when fans are allowed to return.

The Premier League contributes nearly £8 billion a year to the UK economy – which is equivalent to the GDP of a small country.

Rashford’s triumph is that he judged the mood of the country better than the government. Many commentators have pointed out that Rashford and other stars, such as Raheem Sterling, have become skilled at using their platforms to campaign for social change.

It has prompted the wider question whether football today does more for society than politics?

A wider goal?

No. Of course not, say some. Football does not make laws or hold elections.

Yes. As Marina Hyde writes in the Guardian: “In terms of moral worth and strategic competence, how many Gavin Williamsons would you have to amass before you were even close to the value of one Marcus Rashford?”

You Decide

  1. Does football bring out the best in people – or the worst?

Activities

  1. Make a poster of your favourite footballer.

Some People Say...

“Football is the most important of the least important things in life.”

Arrigo Sacchi, former AC Milan manager

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
For better or worse, lots of people care far more about football than about politics. Studies consistently show that about 75 per cent of Britons cannot name their local MP, while around four billion people around the world consider themselves football fans. We know that every major football club does a lot of charitable work, and that more and more footballers are becoming politically active.
What do you not know?
How genuine this all is. How much of the good work done by players and clubs is largely a public relations exercise. The Covid-19 pandemic will cause huge financial problems for many clubs, especially smaller ones. Will that lead to clubs being less charitable or will the example of Marcus Rashford and others result in football becoming more closely tied with various social causes?

Word Watch

Empty
Many wonder whether home advantage will play any part in the remaining games. Since the German Bundesliga restarted a month ago, there have been more away wins than home wins.
U-turn
Rashford wrote an open letter to MPs, in which he talked about his upbringing in Wythenshawe, Manchester. “My mum worked full-time, earning minimum wage to make sure we always had a good evening meal on the table. But it was not enough,” he wrote.
Competence
The ability to do something successfully or efficiently.
Amass
Gather together (a large amount of things) over a period of time.

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