How Do England’s Players Score On Global Goals?
From Zero Hunger to Reduced Inequalities, here’s how the England men's football team are helping advance the UN’s SDGs
By hannah rochell
12 july 2021
They may not have won Euro 2020 - football didn't come home after all. However, England's men's football team won hearts this tournament. This remarkable group of young men showed confident skills on the pitch - Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho, whose courage to step up to take penalties under pressure at just 19 and 21 years of age respectively stands out in particular - but does the fact that players are also speaking out on a wide range of issues such as childhood hunger and mental health make them a much more likeable squad?
Many put it down to social media giving footballers and other sportspeople a platform to talk about their passions, from Marcus Rashford’s #EndChildFoodPoverty campaign to Jordan Henderson’s LGBTQ+ support on Twitter. ‘You’ve got so many examples in that England side of players who are using their status and influence in the game for the better,’ John Mousinho, new chair of the players’ union, the PFA, told The Guardian. ‘Social media has a huge influence on what sort of message players think they can get out there.’
And we applaud them for it. Here are the players scoring the most Global Goals.
Raheem Sterling, MBE
Certainly one of the stand-out stars of the tournament, having scored 3 goals so far and being instrumental in many more, Raheem Sterling cut his teeth at Queen’s Park Rangers and Liverpool, before being signed to Manchester City in 2015. Born in Jamaica, he moved - fittingly - to Wembley, London, with his mother at the age of 5 and is fiercely proud of his roots. He regularly visits Ark Elvin Academy, the school that first recognised his talents, and on one occasion even arranged for 500 tickets for an FA Cup final at Wembley to be given to staff, parents and pupils.
‘I try to get better in every aspect of my life, not just on the football field.’
Last year, Sterling announced that he was launching a social mobility foundation to support disadvantaged young people with work placements and university scholarships. ‘OK, I come from northwest London, I move out of my area - what good is it if I take all I have made in life, my success and just build a big house somewhere?’ he told The Sunday Times. He’s been outspoken about online abuse, is an ambassador for the UN’s #FightRacism campaign and was a key player in the move to take the knee before games in support of Black Lives Matter. He was awarded an MBE for services to Racial Equality in Sport in June.
Tyrone Mings, who plays for Aston Villa, had a tough start in life. When he was at primary school, he and his mother and sisters were made homeless and lived in a shelter. Although he was enrolled in Southampton’s football academy at the tender age of 8, by which point his family had been moved into social housing, he nearly gave up football altogether when the club let him go aged 15. A scholarship at Millfield Independent School put him back on track, and after juggling a job in a pub and as a mortgage advisor with his sport, he found success at Ipswich Town.
‘I firmly believe that everything I'm doing makes me a better human, as well as a better player.’
Mings has spoken out about his own battles with his mental health, and featured in the Duke of Cambridge’s BBC documentary Football, Prince William and our Mental Health in 2020. ‘Nobody really cares about if you have a bad day, nobody really cares if you might be having a problem mentally or a problem physically, or problems at home,’ he says in the programme. ‘You can’t carry that into a game because you only really get judged on your performance. I pay a psychologist to help me throughout the week. I found that throughout injury and stuff, that was the thing that helped me.’
Jordan Henderson, MBE
Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson uses Twitter to not only speak about issues close to his heart, but to use his high profile to elevate the voices of others. He has shown solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community on a number of occasions, from replying to a Liverpool fan who was delighted to see him sporting a Rainbow Laces captain’s armband, to supporting a queer England game attendee who headed to Wembley in full makeup at the weekend (below).
‘No one should be afraid to go and support their club or country because football is for everyone, no matter what.’
Henderson, who scored against Ukraine at the weekend, spearheaded NHS #PlayersTogether in 2020 with three other Premier League captains, Harry Mcguire (also in the England squad), Troy Deeney and Mark Noble. In partnership with NHS Charities Together, it arranges player contributions to help those on the frontline during the coronavirus pandemic, enhancing the well-being of NHS staff, volunteers and patients.
Marcus Rashford, MBE
Marcus Rashford was raised in Manchester by his mother, a single parent who often had to work multiple jobs to make ends meet and skipped meals to ensure that her five children could eat. Rashford was already campaigning on the subject of food poverty before the pandemic hit, having set up the In The Box campaign with Selfridges in 2019, which provided homeless people with essential items over the Christmas period.
‘These children matter... And as long as they don't have a voice they will have mine.’
When the UK went into lockdown in March 2020, and concerned that school children were no longer receiving the free school meals they rely upon as he did as a child, Rashford teamed up with FoodShare, a food waste charity, to deliver meals to those in need in the Manchester area. In June 2020 he wrote an open letter to the UK Government, which made a U-turn on its policy regarding free school meals during the summer holidays the following day. Rashford continues to campaign and was awarded an MBE in October 2020.
Harry Kane, MBE
England’s top goalscorer this tournament, with 4 in the back of the net, Harry Kane is also the captain of the England team (he often wears a rainbow armband), plays for Tottenham Hotspur and is regarded as one of the best strikers in the world. He has known his partner, Katie Goodland, since childhood; eight members of the squad are with partners they have been dating since they were teenagers, one of the reasons often cited for the team’s more wholesome reputation.
‘This gives me a platform to be able to say a big thank you to the many frontline heroes’
In 2020, Kane bought the shirt sponsorship for the club he grew up around the corner from and first played for, Leyton Orient. He chose three causes to be featured on the front of the home, away and third kits - ‘Thank You Frontline Workers’, Haven House children’s hospice and the mental health charity Mind - with the club donating 10% of shirt sales to his nominated charities. He renewed his sponsorship for the 2021/22 season, with the home kit being dedicated to Tommy Club, which supports armed forces veterans.
And it’s not just England…
When Germany played Hungary on June 23rd, football’s governing body UEFA was criticised by refusing to light Munich’s Allianz Arena in rainbow colours in support of Pride. The request had been made by Munich’s mayor, Dieter Reiter, in protest against a new law in Hungary that bans sharing of any content seen as promoting homosexuality and gender change to under-18s. So in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community, Germany lit up other stadiums across the country instead, while its team’s captain, Manuel Neuer sported a rainbow armband and supporters displayed rainbow flags in the stadium.