London: Raheem Sterling’s defiant stance against the scourge of racism has been emboldened by his desire to protect future generations from abuse.
The Manchester City forward — who is in the running to win the Professional Footballers’ Association player of the year award — has been vocal in the fight against discrimination from the stands, with his treatment at Stamford Bridge earlier this season pushing the problem into the spotlight.
Since then, the game has been scarred by numerous incidents but Sterling hopes by speaking out now he and his fellow professionals can avoid further pain.
People always say about walking off the field, it’s not one I personally agree with. The best way is to ...try to win that match and stick it to them.
“It’s difficult. I wanted to bring light on not just one situation, but on my past experiences, things I’ve felt and know speaking to other players, something I felt I needed to say,” he said. “We’re trying, not just me, to make a change that in 10 years’ time younger players won’t have to think about a match and dare to be abused because the fans at that stadium will know what the consequences will be.
“That’s the goal for me and every other player I’ve spoken to, people at the club, and we’re trying to get something in place so people have to think twice before they say something like that.
“People always say about walking off the field, it’s not one I personally agree with. It’s [football] something you love; the abuse is vile, degrading, but you know what you are, you don’t need someone to tell you what you are. The best way is to be hard-headed and do it in the right way, try to win that match and stick it to them.”
Sterling is seemingly battling Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk for the footballer of the year crown but says the award would mean nothing unless City win the title.
“It’s nice to be recognised on that front, but, to be honest, if we don’t win the Premier League, I don’t really want to be in contention,” he said. “What I want to do is win the Premier League, win the FA Cup, then think about stuff like that, even though the awards are before that.
“Without that, it doesn’t mean much to me really. I voted for Harry Kane. My vote for him is because he scores so many goals every year, he does so much for the team, gives so much for his team. I thought being around him in the national team, how he puts in his work, his work ethic, how he looks after himself. He’s always there, especially coming back from injury, as a professional I looked at him and that’s my reason for voting for him, seeing him on a day-to-day with the national team.”