Football star Marcus Rashford vowed there is more to come in his campaign to help disadvantaged children after he was awarded an MBE by Prince William during a ceremony at Windsor Castle on Tuesday.
The England and Manchester United striker said his motivation was to give youngsters the things he did not have when growing up and that every child deserves an “opportunity”.
Rashford waged a high-profile campaign last year to persuade the British government to provide free meals to vulnerable children in England throughout the school holidays during the coronavirus pandemic, forcing Prime Minister Boris Johnson into an about-turn.
Speaking after the investiture ceremony, the striker said he would give his MBE to his mother, Melanie, who raised him and his four brothers and sisters.
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 change – 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.”
The striker is 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.
“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,” he said.
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 her 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.”
Prince William, who is president of the Football Association and was hosting his first investiture in more than 18 months, tweeted he was “pleased to be back” carrying out the ceremonies in person.
Rashford had a brief chat with the Duke of Cambridge and told him how communities came together to say the abuse he and teammates Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka suffered after missing penalties in the Euro 2020 final was “not right”.
“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,” he said.
With Manchester United 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.”
Rashford will also be honoured with a special award at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year ceremony on December 20, after the judging panel unanimously agreed his work off the pitch should be commended.