"Be whoever you want to be!" Marcus Rashford fronts campaign to open up football to more people

Marcus Rashford, Nike
(Image credit: Nike)

Marcus Rashford's campaign against child hunger earned him an MBE last year, he has a number one bestselling children's book (opens in new tab) and he's been outspoken against racist abuse in football.

On top of that, he'll be hoping to clinch international glory as part of the England Euro 2020 squad this summer.

Now, the Manchester United forward is helping front a Nike campaign to open up football to everyone, no matter their gender, race, economic background or sexuality. 

He appears in a new video, The Land of New Football, which says that in football, "you can be whoever you want, be with whoever you want, or just... be", and which champions his work to inspire the next generation through on-field excellence and civic responsibility.

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The short film is part of Nike's ‘Play New’ campaign, encouraging more people into sport through new ways. It also features other England-based stars Richarlison, Everton's Brazilian forward, and Pernille Harder, who became the most expensive women's footballer of all time when she signed for Chelsea last year, and is known for her LGBTQ+ advocacy.

The film, which at one point shows two male players kissing, urges people to "bring your love, and leave the hate".

Rashford himself has been the victim of racist abuse online, while the Premier League has never seen an active player come out as gay – though former Aston Villa, West Ham and Everton midfielder did a year after retiring.

“Nike has been a part of my life for a long time now and there was no hesitation in wanting to build upon this relationship to create real impact," says Rashford. 

"We have the ability, together, to move the game and its perception forward. I never take this role for granted. I’m just Marcus. Marcus whose dream came true. And I want all children, regardless of their race or their background, to feel like the sky is the limit for them too. No child should ever be starting 20 yards behind the other just because of where they grew up. Football and the power of unity in football can inspire. The opportunities truly are endless.”

As part of the campaign, Nike has committed to improving sustainability and reducing carbon emissions – and has used recycled polyester for football shirts since 2010 as a result. 

It also works to create hubs for youth training, recreation and skill development. In April, the company worked with Liverpool to create Game On, a grassroots sports program for underrepresented kids, specifically from black and Asian communities. And in 2019, Nike partnered with England winger Jadon Sancho to build a 7-a-side pitch near where he grew up in South East London. The supporting club, the Lambeth Tigers, provides safe access for kids to learn the game in an organized or recreational setting.

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Conor Pope
Online Editor

Conor Pope is the Online Editor of FourFourTwo, overseeing all digital content, and joined the team in February 2019. He plays football regularly, both on grass and artificial surfaces, and has a large, discerning and ever-growing collection of football shirts from around the world.

He supports Blackburn Rovers and holds a season ticket with south London non-league side Dulwich Hamlet. His main football passions include Tugay, the San Siro and only using a winter ball when it snows.