Liverpool welcome Manchester United to Anfield for the 205th meeting between the two North-West powerhouses, on Sunday. The match has been billed one of the biggest games and also one of the Reds most important games of the season. This comes after Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side handed Burnley their first home defeat since October, as Paul Pogba’s deflected strike sent the Red Devils to the top of the table.
It is now 1st vs 2nd, United’s lead at the top is three points, a win or draw, for the 20-time winners of the Premier League, will see the margin increase.
However, the fixture is more important and the magnitude of the clash is fiercer than ever for a different reason.
COVID-19 hit the world in many tragic ways. In England, many people have lost their lives, daily more people are doing so. Families have been crippled by the virus medically and financially.
Austerity and deprivation in Liverpool has been around for many years. Without being drawn into the politics, the UK government has rung the region dry of all it’s resources since the 1980s and it has barely sought to improve.
Only through the determination and grit of the people of Merseyside pushed the city forward.
With multiple Lockdowns being put in place, the strain on families has been worse than ever.
Locally, Fans Supporting Foodbanks (@SFoodbanks) are the organisation that tackle these issues, including tackling food insecurities, challenging Austerity and defend communities and class.
Speaking to Liverpool Transfer Room, Chair of Fans Supporting Foodbanks, Dave Kelly (@DavefcKelly), said: “I think [lockdown] will have a massive impact on families, you only have to look at what’s happened over the last 24-48 hours over school dinners,”
“It’s absolutely appalling what’s going on. It’s getting towards 12 months into the pandemic, the government are still using it as an opportunity to make money, looking after the donors,” He added.
Set up by Spirit of Shankly and Blue Union, Liverpool and Everton fans respectively, shows that hunger doesn’t wear club colours.
They work as a distribution centre for 33% of foodbanks in Liverpool.
It has put tribal differences aside.Dave Kelly, Chair of Fans Supporting Foodbanks
Dave himself has underlying health conditions and has shielded for over 10 months. During the first lockdown, the government supplied food parcels for those deemed high-risk but this has since stopped.
As a result, those who have been forced to shield and pushed to stay indoors, now have their hands tied when their essential resources begin to run out.
For the match against Sheffield United alone, fans raised over £100,000 instead of paying the £14.95 PPV fee.
Last year, Fans Supporting Foodbanks (FSF) helped 1,700 students locked in halls of residence in Manchester during lockdown. Dave continued, “I think the people of Manchester were surprised to see a van from Liverpool turn up and feed students. That tells me exactly what we need to know that football fans, despite their bad publicity, these are people that genuinely care for communities.“
Previously when spectators were allowed into stadiums, FSF would take their van to the grounds and fans could make their donations there.
With games now played behind-closed-doors, that chance has gone. Dave Kelly believes the food poverty and insecurity, as well as austerity, has gone from a humanitarian crisis to an epidemic, “I don’t want to donate a tin of beans to an Evertonian, Liverpudlian, City or a United supporter, I want to donate a tin of beans to someone who’s hungry,”
“It’s actually a humanitarian crisis, which has grown into an epidemic. That’s why we’ve been successful because we’ve asked rival supporters’ groups to put tribal differences to one side.” Dave said.
Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford has been praised for his work throughout the pandemic, for his help supporting underprivileged children during the restrictions.
He has tirelessly fought the corner for struggling families, not just in Manchester, but across the country.
At just 23 years of age, the Wythenshawe-born attacker started a petition and challenged Boris Johnson. Receiving over 1.1million signatures, it became only one of five parliamentary petitions to attract a million signatures.
Liverpool has already demonstrated it’s appreciation for Rashford, Everton left a fitting tribute to the England international when he was previously on Merseyside in November.
In October 2020, the Conservatives voted against extending free school meals for children, one of those the UK’s Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, during one of the worst spikes of the virus which saw many schools close.
The current state of the country has been highlighted by multiple figures, none other than Rashford.
One of the charities helping the fight is the Trussell Trust. As per their figures, 1.2 million people were given emergency food parcels by Trussell Trust Foodbanks between April 1st and September 30th 2020, 154,096 of them donated to the North West.
Furthermore, harrowing figures express greater problems within the UK as every day during the first six months of the pandemic, 2,600 children received a food parcel.
Typically, it is Merseyside vs Manchester, but this Sunday it is Merseyside & Manchester vs The Government.
The two football powerhouses can come together as one and highlight that the fight against poverty and austerity is far from over.
With the country is in a sorry state at the minute, but it’s time to hand over the professionals and fight the North West’s corner, in solidarity.
No one should go hungry, at the time of writing, the petition is up to 15,000 signatures. Show your support by signing the petition: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/562838.
Written by Stephen Killen (@SteKillenBL).