A childhood friend of the cancer victim to whom Marcus Rashford dedicated his World Cup brace has described the England player’s tribute as “really touching”.
The 25-year-old Manchester United forward pointed to the sky after finding the net and revealed afterwards that he was paying tribute to his late friend Garfield “Garf” Hayward.
Tim Hamnett, 34, from Stretford in Greater Manchester, told the PA news agency that Rashford’s celebration had “cheered a lot of people up”.
He said: “Yeah I did get a bit upset about it but in kind of a good way.
“A lot of people are really upset and down at the minute but what he did do there, Rashford, and afterwards spoke about it and said it was for Garf, it has cheered a lot of people up, especially a lot of our close friends.
“A lot of the closer friends knew that he would’ve dedicated a celebration, so we were just wondering what it was going to be, and what a way to do it.
“It was really touching.”
Mr Hamnett said he met Mr Hayward at primary school and they lived “on the next street from each other”.
Mr Hamnett’s wife Kym Hamnett, 33, said: “He was always in touch over the phone but if it was anything important he always turned up.
“He never missed anything. He was great. Nobody ever had a bad word to say about him. Such a happy person.”
Rashford hit a superb free-kick and ended a mazy run by finishing through goalkeeper Danny Ward’s legs during England’s 3-0 group stage win against Wales.
The forward said afterwards: “Unfortunately I lost one of my friends a couple of days ago.
“He’s had quite a long battle with cancer, so I’m pleased I managed to score for him.
“He’s always been a big supporter of mine. He was just a great person and I’m pleased he came into my life, really.”
Mrs Hamnett meanwhile said that Rashford’s celebration tribute had a great effect on her children, Keelan, 10, and Oscar, six.
“They saw him as like an uncle and when Rashford scored that was it, we knew that celebration was for Garf, so the kids were absolutely ecstatic, jumping about shouting ‘yes, Rashford you’ve done it for Garf’.
“Today, going to school, they were bouncing off the walls. They couldn’t wait to go and tell them what Marcus Rashford had done.
“That celebration, I can’t even explain what it’s done… it’s just lifted everyone’s spirits. Even though it’s such a bad thing that’s happened, everyone is just so happy that Garf’s been put out there. It just shows how much he was loved.”