Marcus Rashford replied to the bewildering news that Gavin Williamson confused him with another sports player – while the rest of the internet fumed on his behalf.
The education secretary told the Evening Standard’s Susannah Butter that he had met Rashford, a prominent campaigner for free school meals, while it was later revealed he had actually met Rugby Union player, Maro Itoje.
Referencing his Mancunian origins and Itoje’s London upbringing, Rashford then tweeted on Wednesday: “Accent could have been a giveaway [emoji].”
The major faux-pas was revealed after Butter asked Williamson if he had met the famous footballer during an interview.
He replied: “We met over Zoom and he seemed incredibly engaged, compassionate and charming but then he had to shoot off.
“I didn’t want to be the one that was holding him back from his training.”
Butter then added Williamson’s team later told her he had actually met Itoje when he was campaigning to bridge the digital divide during the pandemic.
Rashford’s representatives also confirmed the England International footballer had never had any direct communication with the education secretary.
Rashford has been a prominent influence on the education system throughout the pandemic, successfully campaigning for the government to commit to providing one free school meal a day to children.
He has also just launched a new campaign focused on creating a roadmap out of the pandemic for child hunger – which he swiftly pushed into the public eye following Williamson’s humiliating mistake.
Itoje commented on Twitter as well, writing: “Due to recent speculation I thought it was necessary to confirm that I am not Marcus Rashford...And while we are here my name is not Mario either!!
“Just a simple Maro Itoje will do...Much love, Marcu...I mean, Maro Itoje.”
Williamson’s words also left Twitter users infuriated on Rashford – and Itoje’s – behalf.
The Independent’s political sketch writer Tom Peck tweeted: “Even if you’re prepared to overlook the casual racism, you’ve then got the fact the actual education secretary thinks he’s met the country’s leading free school meal campaigner who also plays football for England, when he actually hasn’t.”
Comic Nish Kumar simply tweeted, “What” in disbelief.
Labour MP Zarah Sultana said: “Just when you thought @GavinWilliamson couldn’t be any more of a joke.”
Williamson has been under fire throughout the Covid crisis for his mismanagement of A-levels and GCSEs, and was just recently criticised for failing to put in adequate ventilation in classrooms ahead of the start of the school year.
Prominent solicitor Nazir Afzal also jumped into the debate, and joked: “No worries, we all look the same.”
Nadine White, race correspondent at The Independent, also asked: “So what, do we all look the same?”