“WHAT Marcus Rashford has done is amazing. I was, back in the day, one of those kids that was on dinner tickets and needed help.”

Former Weymouth forward, turned Olympic gold medallist, Darren Campbell and Manchester United star Marcus Rashford share many striking similarities.

Both men grew up in Manchester and were helped by subsidised meals at school.

Both men have been racially abused in their sporting careers.

Both men are also vocal supporters of Black Lives Matter.

Winner of 4x100m relay Olympic gold at Athens 2004, Campbell’s success stems from a difficult upbringing in Sale.

His family struggled to make ends meet, set against a backdrop in the violent, and often racist, underworld of Manchester.

Rashford also faced a shortage of food as a youngster and has won an MBE for his work to convince the Government to provide free school meals for kids in need.

“What Marcus Rashford has done is amazing,” Campbell told Echosport.

“I was, back in the day, one of those kids that was on dinner tickets and needed help.

“My mum needed help in a single-parent family with myself and my sister.

“At times, there wasn’t enough money to go around.

“Marcus has gained great success as a footballer, then he’s using his platform to highlight a massive issue.

“It doesn’t discriminate.

“It’s not about colour, it’s not about race. It’s just about people struggling.

“For him to go out and do what he’s done is absolutely amazing.”

When Campbell, now 47, escaped Sale’s urban environment to pursue a fledgling football career, he was followed by incidents of racism.

While Campbell did not experience racism at Weymouth FC, for whom he scored four goals in 27 games, he was subjected to a shocking isolated incident in the town centre.

Sadly, Campbell had been confronted with even more horrific cases from crowds in Wales, while playing for Cwmbran Town.

“At Weymouth, I was never subjected to it,” Campbell said.

“There was one occasion when I was walking round the town and somebody drove past and said something racial towards me.

“That was disappointing and very shocking.

“To be honest, I suffered a lot more racism when playing in south Wales, whether it be the ‘n’ word or monkey chants.

“It was very different in those times.

“You wouldn’t be supported, not even by the referee.

“You’d say to the referee: ‘there’s noises’ and it was: ‘just get on with it’.

“In the times we live in now, you’re able to talk about it and not be seen as having a chip on your shoulder.

“In my day, if you spoke out about it you enabled that chip or you were causing trouble.

“It was difficult, but at Weymouth that was the only occasion I had a problem.”

Rashford, too, was the target of vile racist abuse – notably in 2019 when he missed a penalty in Manchester United’s 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace.

Days earlier, he had supported teammate Paul Pogba after his own battle against online racism.

Rashford tweeted: “Enough now, this needs to stop.

“Manchester United is a family. @PaulPogba is a huge part of that family. You attack him, you attack us all.”

Last year, it took the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis to spark the Black Lives Matter campaign.

Footballers and sportspeople across the globe now ‘take a knee’ and Rashford has been a prominent supporter of the initiative.

“At a time when I’ve been asking people to come together, work together and be united, we appear to me more divided than ever,” he tweeted.

“People are hurting and people need answers.

“Black lives matter.

“Black culture matters.

“Black communities matter.

“We matter.”

Campbell is also an advocate of the campaign which has raised awareness of racism and police brutality against black people across the world.

He welcomes ‘anything that enables people speaking about it and open about it,’ adding: “the fact that we’re having discussions shows how far we’ve come.

“Black lives do matter. You’ve seen by what happened in America why the movement has become so strong.

“For me, one of the most powerful images were when there were protests in London and around the UK.

“Black, and white, people stood together saying that enough is enough.

“You don’t get a more powerful statement than that when people can come together and find common ground.

“Having that level of support and people now starting to understand it, that’s the most important thing.

“People are now taking the time to educate themselves and understand that enough is enough.”

Sport can be a powerful tool to empower change.

And who better than two of the country’s most respected sportsmen to help ensure that child poverty, racism and other thorny issues are finally repelled?

*Darren Campbell was speaking to Echosport after the launch of his autobiography Track Record.


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