30 June 2021 Share
The SLA talk to Marcus Rashford’s co author of 'You Are a Champion: How To Be the Best You Can Be'
Footballer Marcus Rashford has published his own book You Are a Champion: How To Be the Best You Can Be as well as launched a book club this month to get disadvantaged children reading more.
The England and Manchester United striker joined forces with publisher Macmillan Children's which will donate 50,000 books to 850 primary schools across England and Scotland through the children's food charity Magic Breakfast.
Rashford’s own book, published in May, is for young people and aims to be an “inspiring, positive and practical guide” which shows that “success is all about the mindset” and promises to reveal “how positive thinking can change your life, build mental resilience, learn how to navigate adversity and discover the unstoppable power of your own voice”.
Here the SLA talk to Marcus’s co author and journalist Carl Anka.
My first question is one everyone will want to know. What was it like working with Marcus Rashford on this?
It’s been one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life. Marcus is such a positive, smiling and happy person, and he goes out of his way to make sure you have a smile on your face too. Working on various chapters of the book, going over ideas and different ways to tell his stories and life stories was incredible. I learned a lot, not just about Marcus and his life story, but about myself as well.
Did you meet together to write it, or have zoom calls etc? How did the pandemic affect things?
We had a series of Zoom conversations to get the majority of our ideas written down. The 2020-21 football season was five weeks shorter than usual, but Marcus was generous with his time throughout the process. If we were scheduled to talk for 30 minutes, he’d tend to talk to me for 45. If the plan was to talk for an hour, we’d talk for 75 minutes. I saw him once tweet that our writing sessions felt like therapy, because he found them so relaxing. I found them soothing too.
How long did it take you to write it?
I wrote a prototype, “Here’s what the book might look like” introduction in early January, and finished the first draft of the entire book in early April. All in all, the book came together in about three months. That’s quite quick for a book of this length and subject, but Marcus and I had a great team helping us along the way.
How did you get involved in this project and how did it feel to be asked to collaborate on something that hopes to not only inspire children, but also help teach them a fundamental life skill, which they might have struggled to develop otherwise?
I put my name forward as a potential person for Marcus to write with in early November and didn’t expect to get chosen only to be told Marcus picked me two weeks later. I’m eternally humbled and grateful that Marcus picked me, and I’m really proud of the book we have created together. Every person who reaches out and says they enjoyed the book is a win and makes us both very happy!
For those who haven’t read it, what is the book about?
Early on in the writing process I asked Marcus why he wanted to write a children’s book and he said he wanted “to have a positive influence and give kids an opportunity to dream.” You are a Champion is a book designed to be a helpful guide for children and young people, telling stories from Marcus’ life, and sharing some lessons he feels were important to him. As Marcus sees it there’s more than one way to be a champion, and everyone has the ability within themselves to do amazing things. This book is about helping people recognise the potential within them, to get them to celebrate the brilliant things they have done already, and to share advice as to how they can chase their dreams.
Where did the idea for the book come from?
Marcus has spoken about how he only started reading books at age 17, when he was handed a copy of “Relentless” by Tim S Grover when he was in United’s academy. He really enjoyed the book, and still goes over it every now and again when he’s looking for tips as to how to improve his approach to training and football. I think Marcus was interested in making a book that could help young people in the same way Relentless helped him. When we were going through ideas he made it clear he wanted You Are A Champion to have something for everyone. You didn’t just have to be a football fan, or know about Marcus’ life story to enjoy it. The idea was to create a book to help all children realise their potential. With hard work, a positive approach and a bit of collaboration, young people can do almost anything they put their minds to. For a lot of people, something as ‘nerdy’, (for want of a better word), as reading, and something as practical as sport and, in this case football, aren’t the most natural of partners.
How would you respond to that? What can sport/football bring to the table in terms of encouraging children to read and improving literacy levels?
The way I see it, “being nerdy” or being a “nerd”, means you have a deep interest in a particular topic. Being a nerd is great! I think it’s amazing that there are people out there passionate about a subject, trying to learn as much about it. I think it becomes even more amazing when a passionate person then shares that knowledge with people around them.
You can be a nerd about anything… including football! From a teaching perspective, it can be good to find things people are passionate about and then ask why, and then once you’ve figured that out, you can learn how to teach better in other topics. Football has taught me so much, and not just in the tactical stuff that occurs on the pitch. My knowledge of European cities owes a lot to watching Manchester United play in the Champions League. I started learning Spanish because I wanted to understand more football interviews. One of my favourite foods - bunny chow - is a dish served at football games in South Africa. Football is more than a game, it’s also about people and stories. You can use football to teach children about history, geography, maths, languages - loads!
What do you hope to achieve through writing a book like this?
Writing the book with Marcus was an achievement enough for me. Any time someone picks the book up and says they found something interesting in it, or they picked up some good advice from it, that puts a smile on my face.