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Can Football Save The World?
Sport|Feb 15, 2022

Can Football Save The World?

What World Problems Should Soccer Work On Fixing Next?
Rob Pegley

The world’s biggest sport has a global reach, engagement and depth of passion, that cannot help but provoke change if harnessed properly. So what world problems should soccer work on next?

Well, when Conservative MPs voted against free school meals in the House of Commons last year, a 22-year-old black lad from Wythenshawe in Manchester helped them to change their minds. Within months they did a U-turn and reinstated meals for some 1.7 million kids below the threshold required.

The fact that the lad – Marcus Rashford – played football for Manchester United and England was the biggest factor. Growing up in Wythenshawe, the biggest housing estate in working class Manchester, where gun crime and drugs are common,  Rashford had witnessed his single mum struggle to put meals on the table. Marcus has since become a figurehead in the campaign to end child food poverty and he continues to work hard for change.

When Rashford was then a victim of online abuse, the community came out in huge numbers to support him. 

As the European Championship Final between England and Italy went to penalties, Rashford, along with two other black English players Jordan Sancho and Bukayo but provoke change if harnessed properly. So what world problems should soccer work on next?

Well, when Conservative MPs voted against free school meals in the House of Commons last year, a 22-year-old black lad from Wythenshawe in Manchester helped them to change their minds. Within months they did a U-turn and reinstated meals for some 1.7 million kids below the threshold required.

The fact that the lad – Marcus Rashford – played football for Manchester United and England was the biggest factor. Growing up in Wythenshawe, the biggest housing estate in working class Manchester, where gun crime and drugs are common,  Rashford had witnessed his single mum struggle to put meals on the table. Marcus has since become a figurehead in the campaign to end child food poverty and he continues to work hard for change.

Because people LOVE football – and they love it on a deeper level than most other sports

When Rashford was then a victim of online abuse, the community came out in huge numbers to support him. 

As the European Championship Final between England and Italy went to penalties, Rashford, along with two other black English players Jordan Sancho and Bukayo and they love it on a deeper level than most other sports. They love it on a deeper level than just about anything.

From the streets of Wythenshawe to the beaches of Rio, no sport matters more – especially to working class males. It can make grown men cry. It can move people to get up early, travel vast distances and spend lots of money just to watch it.  For many men in particular, it ranks alongside working, the family, sex and having a drink, as the five most basic important things in their life. That level of passion has to increasingly be leveraged for good.

So the question is, from taking a knee – or taking on the media as Raheem Sterling did – in a bid to end racism; or to discussing depression as players are increasingly doing, what is next for football? What world problems can the world game solve?

Sustainability is one thing yet to be touched, however, just this month Spurs are set to play the world’s first net zero carbon football game against rivals Chelsea. Fans will be encouraged to take public transport to the game and eat plant-based foods, while players travel on biofuel coach. There are bigger gestures and changes that can be made in this area, but it’s a start.

Equality is coming thick and fast, with the Women’s Premier League growing and gaining coverage on all of the main channels, and female presenters and pundits now the norm. 

Possibly the final frontier is homophobia. While it’s accepted of pop stars or television personalities, it’s still not considerable that a top-level footballer could be gay. 

There has never been an openly gay soccer player in the Premier League. Justin Fashanu, football’s first black player to cost one million pounds, came out as gay later in his career, and after hounding by media and public alike, hung himself at the age of 37. Similarly, Germany and Aston Villa player Thomas Hitzelburger came out once he had retired. There are currently over 500 players registered in the Premier League and sheer numbers would suggest that more than one of them is gay. It would be huge if players and fans could be accepting of anyone who came out – and possibly now is the right time.