July 19, 2021

Sales of Rashford book soar following England’s Euro 2020 run


Three Lions: still awaiting their first major men’s trophy since 1966. (via Flickr  under CC BY-NC 2.0)

Four inches. 10.16cm. The minimum width of a standard football goalpost. In global terms: an incredibly small distance. At Wembley Stadium on Sunday night, as the Euro 2020 final between England and Italy reached a near-hysterical crescendo, it was the difference between immortality and ignominy.

Marcus Rashford did everything right—except score. Having staggered the run-up to his penalty kick, and with Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma already committed to a dive down to his left, Rashford calmly directed the ball to his left, towards the yawning mouth of the goal … only to watch it bounce, agonisingly, off the base of the post, and back towards him. He’d missed.

Wembley moaned with grief. How could this be happening again? Then Jadon Sancho missed. Then Bukayo Saka—who needed to score for England to stay in the match—missed too. And suddenly it was over. England fans had already done a fine job of ruining their own party—but Italy had gatecrashed the part that mattered. We’d lost. Again. On penalties. Again.

There was trouble even before the Italians had been presented the trophy. With weary predictability, and fueled by a day of both grim excess and bottled-up frustration, the recriminations began.

Some, rightly or wrongly, questioned England manager Gareth Southgate’s tactics. Why hadn’t he capitalised on Luke Shaw’s superbly-taken goal in the second minute, instead sitting back and letting Italy back into the game? Why had he left it so late to introduce two of his chosen penalty takers to the field of play? Where, in the final of a major international tournament at home, was the energy? All valid criticisms, which one feels Southgate (if he stays on) will absorb and reflect on ahead of next year’s World Cup in Qatar.

But some comments from England “fans” stepped over the line between fierce critique and outright hostility. Rashford, Sancho and Saka all received racist abuse on social media. And in Withington, Greater Manchester, a mural of Rashford—who, remember, spent most of last year campaigning against food poverty—was defaced.

Just as England’s hopes had dissolved on the pitch, suddenly it seemed the goodwill built up over the last month towards this talented, socially conscious and endlessly dignified group of players was disintegrating before our eyes. Politicians condemned the hatred. Others, including England defender Tyrone Mings, questioned the sincerity of that condemnation. That old phrase reappeared on Twitter: “When you win, you’re English. When you lose, you’re Black.”

Then something remarkable happened. Instead of following the old playbook (England lose a crucial match; are pilloried; slowly rebuild their relationship with the fans), the public stepped up. National newspapers posted supportive headlines. The Rashford mural was not only repaired within 24 hours, but adorned with hundreds of encouraging messages, even becoming the site of an impromptu anti-racism protest.

Earlier this year we covered Rashford’s inspirational book, You Are A Champion, co-written with Athletic journalist Carl Anka. Yesterday the Guardian reported that the book had shot to the top of the bestseller lists in the wake of England’s defeat, with many bookshops undertaking schemes to distribute it to the nation’s children:

Book-ish in Crickhowell, Wales, has raised more than £8,000 to buy copies for local secondary school children, with Mirror Me Write in Manchester, Gullivers Bookshop in Wimborne Minster, Winstone’s Hunting Raven Bookshop in Frome and Newham Bookshop in London undertaking similar initiatives.

The report also highlights Rashford’s efforts to bolster underfunded school libraries:

In June, Rashford and Macmillan launched the Marcus Rashford Book Club, which aims to develop a love of reading and literacy in children aged eight to 12, kicking off with the title A Dinosaur Ate My Sister by Pooja Puri, 50,000 copies of which were donated to schools in disadvantaged areas of the UK.

If it’s hard to imagine footballers of the past getting involved in such schemes, that’s because these England players—and their manager—are different. They represent more than football. They represent a new generation who don’t just take pride in the shirt, but realise their position is one of responsibility—and with that, the potential to bring about positive change.

They are already the best of us. By next year, they might just be the best in the world. We can dream, eh?



Tom Clayton is publishing executive at Melville House UK.