Words by Neil Boardman

I am not a Manchester City fan. To be quite honest, I am not a huge fan of the English national side, either. Therefore, many would say, I have no reason to actually like Raheem Sterling. However, every time I watch Raheem Sterling play he reminds me why, as he should everyone, football is so great. I am a Raheem Sterling fan.

The way Sterling carries himself throughout every game is a thing that the majority of us, can only dream of. The 24 year old can pick out the impossible pass, Dribble through a non-existent gap and come up with a goal from absolutely nowhere. He should be the thing of dreams to the English press and fans all around the world. But he isn’t.

This article does not aim to try and explain why Sterling is a regular victim of abuse from fans and headline writers, mainly because I don’t have the answer to that question. I can not even begin to try and explain some of the abuse that Raheem Sterling receives, on the daily. To me, it makes no sense whatsoever and I hope that everyone reading this agrees with that statement.

Raheem Sterling helps remind me of the things I love about football, however, the abuse he received in England’s friendly against Montenegro reminds me of the things I dislike about the beautiful game. We all know what happened and I am sure that some people, out there, are brushing it off – claiming it happens all the time; and they’re right. But it shouldn’t be the case. Gareth Southgate insisted that the FA will putting in a report of the incident, which is good, for this incident, but it shouldn’t need to be the case at any point. Football is one of the only things in the world that helps bring people together, yet the sport is stopping itself being a better means of peace, from the inside.

In my opinion, Raheem Sterling handles it all very well. He lets the football do the talking, and what a chat he puts on. However, the point is he shouldn’t have to ‘handle’ it, at all. Whether Sterling is a victim of racist abuse or not, he will still be one of the best footballers in the world. But, the point is, this is going on around one of the best players in the world, I do not care to imagine what it is like for some minority players, who aren’t on Sterling’s level. It is time the governing bodies of the sport make a stand. It is 2019, for god’s sake.

Not only, is it time to kick racism out of stadiums but out of the press to. Every other week, we see a new headline from one of Britain’s right wing press outlets condemning Sterling for something that tends to be nothing. If you are of the opinion that Sterling is subject to the same abuse that any footballer is then you’re wrong, I’m afraid.

I will take you back to the ‘tattoo’ saga that was a massive talking point amongst the press, pre-Russia 2018. Sterling was criticised, day after day, in the press for his choice to get a new tattoo on his leg. HIS LEG. Sterling came out and gave reasoning for his choice to get the tattoo, a matter close to his heart, yet was still ridiculed for his choice. Should this have been England golden boys Kane, Maguire or Dier, I am 99% positive the right wing media would not have given the story the same kind of attention. Wonder why?

Fast forward a few months and Sterling was yet against subject to vile abuse, this time from so-called ‘fans’ at Chelsea. The lasting image from the incident wasn’t the abhorrent insults being hurled towards Sterling, or the inexplicable hatred on the faces of the culprits. It was Sterling’s defiance, laughing in the face of his abusers. Something he continues to do so, time and time again. It was Sterling who got the last laugh again, a few months down the line, smashing home the winning penalty in the Carabao Cup final. Who was it against? Chelsea.

Montenegro is just the latest example of Sterling using his immense skill to laugh in the face of his critics. His perfectly-timed run, confident touch and ice-cold finish into the bottom corner was a big-middle finger to every idiot in that stadium guilty of abusing England’s players that night. His celebration, cupping his hands to ears as if to say ‘Is that all you’ve got?’ was typical of the man. Taking abuse in his stride and using it to up his game. Admirable.

I can’t give any kind of explanation for why Sterling is treated the way he is. To me, he is almost a perfect footballer, a joy to watch on the pitch and role model off it. Sterling is a national treasure. It is about time he is treated like one.

Keep smiling and dancing Raheem. The people that matter are on your side.

We intend to create a more in depth article on this subject matter for ourJOURNAL. But after the events of the England vs Montenegro game, we feel like it was important to kick start the investigation now.

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