Lineker backs Marcus Rashford and calls for Government U-turn on school meals

Gary Lineker has backed Marcus Rashford in his battle to give 200,000 vulnerable children free school meals this summer.

Former England striker turned Match of the Day presenter Lineker has hailed the “impressive” Manchester United star, who is refusing to give up despite seeing his plea initially rejected by the Government.

Rashford, 22, penned a heartfelt open letter to MPs describing how he relied on the lifeline as a child and called on them to extend it.

It came after he had already raised around £20million to supply three million meals to vulnerable people with charity FareShare UK during the Covid-19 lockdown.

But despite huge support, his call was rejected by the Government.

Rashford has since vowed to continue fighting after No.10 confirmed the scheme would not extend into the summer break.

Lineker backed Rashford on social media on Monday and took aim at Health Secretary Matt Hancock, declaring “You asked footballers to do their bit… Perhaps, in return, you could help one of them, who’s already done immeasurable good.”

Now he has doubled down with his backing for Rashford and has called on the Government to make a U-turn.

“I was very impressed really with what Marcus is doing,” said Lineker, speaking to BBC Newsnight.

“When you look at it, though, he’s a 22 year old footballer. He shouldn’t be the one having to do this. But the fact that he is, is important. It’s impressive. He’s a very fine young man, and he’s a credit to his sport and his family.

"He’s doing a great job in trying to get the government to U-turn.

“Obviously these are strange times. Kids wouldn’t ordinarily be fed during the summer holidays, I understand that. But you’ve got to look at it and go ‘These are very, very difficult times for a lot of people and a lot of families’.”

“There are a lot of young people, young children, in this country that are going hungry. And in a country like ours, a country of quite substantial wealth, that seems to be largely unacceptable.

"And the fact that he’s stepped forward to take this on his plate is something that I think deserves to be applauded.

"Hopefully the powers that be will listen. It seems strange that we have to be in a position where we are desperately arguing to try to get young people fed, and stop them being hungry.

“It’s hard to know exactly what will happen. I just hope, possibly, that the government will see sense on this.”

“This is a time where families and others have not been able to go out to work. A lot of them have lost their jobs, a lot of them have been furloughed. So they’re going through difficult times, when they perhaps go through difficult times anyway.

"I’m not particularly trying to batter the government on everything. I think they’ve done a lot of good for businesses – huge amounts of money trying to save a very difficult situation, and it is a very difficult situation. But for this? Hungry kids? Come on!”

“It would be quite the breakthrough if the government does the U-turn that he’s asked for. I hope they do.

"I don’t think this should be a political issue. It should just be something that we need to sort out.

"It’s a temporary thing over the summer holidays – and hopefully they’ll see sense. I’m not sure they will – but I just hope they do.”

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Rashford's highlighting of the issue comes as a number of young footballers – such as his England teammate Jadon Sancho – have been active in highlighting social issues, such as the Black Lives Matter movement.

Asked if it surprises him that footballers appear to be speaking out more, Lineker said: “For young men – and these are very young men, most of them teenagers, in their twenties – to come together for the power of good is important.

"Those speaking out against things – whether it be racism, whether it be feeding our children etcetera, It takes bravery to do that.

"Because you know that whenever you put your head above the parapet, there are a lot of people trying to knock it off.

"I’m full of admiration for them for what they’re trying to do.”

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