Wilfried Zaha says footballers should use their high profiles to generate positive change in society and lauded Marcus Rashford for setting an example.
The Crystal Palace winger – speaking at the FT Business of Football Summit – highlighted the work done by Manchester United and England forward Rashford to raise awareness about child food poverty as an example to follow and feels such a personal policy also helps to broaden the horizon of players.
“I’m not an activist but if I’ve got a platform to try and make change, why not? I don’t see why I would not say something, no matter how small my platform is compared to other people,” Zaha said.
“I feel like I have a duty to do what I can really. Like Marcus Rashford, he’s got his platform and he’s pushed through to make these things happen. Some people tell him just to stick to football but how can you say that? He’s probably feeding your child.
“Certain footballers will just play football and go home. I feel we like with the opportunities we have, we should broaden our horizons. You only live once. If you can inspire people too it’s a win-win.”
Zaha’s own contribution to implementing positive change comes with his policy of donating 10 per cent of his wages to charity, something he has done throughout his career at the encouragement of his mother.
“I’ve done that ever since my first contract and I’m glad I’ve done that,” he added.
“I believe in God and I feel like he has blessed me. I know what it feels like to have nothing and it feels like there’s no way out. I feel like I want to give back and people are starting to hear about it now but it’s not something I’ve ever done for pats on the back.
“It’s just something I’ve done since the age of 16. When it’s your first pay check it’s like ‘wow, this is a bit crazy’ but it just makes sense to me really. The smile on people’s faces now, when I see the people I’m able to help, it makes it worthwhile.”
Zaha: Taking a knee ‘degrading’ and players should ‘stand tall’
Zaha also reiterated his views on the practice of players taking a knee before games as a means of raising awareness of the fight against racism and says he will not do so because he feels black players should instead “stand tall”.
“I’ve said it before that I feel like taking a knee is degrading because my parents let me know that I should be proud to be black no matter what and I feel like we should stand tall,” he said.
“Taking a knee before games has become something we just do before every game and it’s not enough for me. I’m not going to take the knee or wear the Black Lives Matter stuff because it makes you a target and it’s not even working.
“I don’t really tend to speak on racism because I’m not here to just tick boxes, unless there’s change don’t ask me about it.
“People ask me about it so they can say ‘he’s spoken about racism’ and it’s click bait. Unless some change has happened, I don’t want to know.”