For a footballer of Marcus Rashford’s immense talent and goalscoring ability, it would take a lot for his off-field efforts to outshine his footballing heroics, but the 22-year-old has become one of the sport’s leading voices in the fight against poverty in the UK. During lockdown, Rashford joined forces with a poverty and food waste charity to raise money to prove school meals for children. After Rashford wrote an open letter to the government, the government changed their policy on school meals to extend the scheme through the summer, providing much needed relief to struggling parents.
That outstanding philanthropic work is one of the main reasons why Rashford is one of the main contenders for the award of BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2020, along with his fine form in helping Manchester United recover their form in the second half of the 2019-20 season and finish in a Champions League position. It would be a just reward for Rashford’s hard work if he were to land the famous BBC accolade, and few could begrudge him were he to win top prize on December 13th.
It’s been 11 years since a footballer was named Sports Personality of the Year, with Ryan Giggs having picked up the award in 2009. Only four other footballers have ever won the award – Bobby Moore, Paul Gascoigne, Michael Owen and David Beckham – so Rashford would be joining an elite list of some of the sport’s biggest names.
While Rashford’s work away from football has won him so many plaudits, it could be that he falls short at the Sports Personality of the Year awards because of a lack of remarkable individual success this year. While he was instrumental in Manchester United’s return to form, the England striker still finished six goals behind Jamie Vardy in the top scorers chart, and perhaps lacks the personal sporting achievement required to win the BBC award.
If you look back at the last few winners of the award, they have all made outstanding personal contributions. Cricketer Ben Stokes, who won last year, was man of the match in England’s victory over New Zealand in the World Cup final, while also scoring a magnificent century in the Ashes. 2018 winner Geraint Thomas showed outstanding talent and stamina to win the Tour de France, and 2017 champion Mo Farah won the 10,000m event at the World Championship that year.
It can be difficult to stand out as a footballer when you’re up against sportspeople who participate in more individual-focused sports. If United had won a major trophy last season – the Premier League, Champions League, or even the FA Cup – Rashford might be in with a better chance, but as it stands it’s hard to see how his personal achievements can compete with the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Tyson Fury or Ronnie O’Sullivan.
But then again, perhaps the significance of Rashford’s charity work, and the decorum with which he has carried out his philanthropic efforts will see him earn more acclaim than any on-field achievements possibly could. While there may be many candidates who have achieved more than Rashford sporting-wise in 2020, few have had as big an impact on society as the young footballer has this year.