Raheem’s sterling efforts to tackle racism
If you weren’t already familiar with 24-year-old Raheem Sterling from his success with Manchester City, signing for the team in 2015 in what was the highest transfer fee ever paid for an English player and helping the team to win the Premier League in 2018, then he may have recently captured your attention when donning the unmistakable ‘three lions’ shirt. Making his senior debut for England in November 2012, Sterling has gone on to represented England at both the 2014 and 2018 FIFA World Cups, as well as the UEFA European Championship in 2016. The winger and attacking midfielder has been impeccable in recent England matches, scoring his first hat-trick for the national team on March 22nd in a 5-0 win over the Czech Republic (a UEFA Euro 2020 qualifier), but it has been his leadership in tackling racism that has been nothing but sterling.
March 25th (2019) saw England take on Montenegro in another UEFA Euro 2020 qualifier, with the former beating the later with a 5-1 victory. Alas, the occasion was marred by the behaviour of some of the Montenegrin fans; racist chanting was directed at a number of England’s players, including explicit monkey chants aimed at left back Danny Rose who has since said that he ‘can’t wait to see the back’ of football due to this discrimination. UEFA are set to launch an investigation into this incident but Sterling has refused for the issue to be buried under the carpet, responding initially with a tweet claiming that racists should ‘#getsomeeducation’.
This is not the first time Sterling has faced hostility and violence due to his race, with the London-raised star experiencing a racially-driven attack outside Manchester City’s training ground in December 2017. The perpetrator pleaded guilty to racially aggravated common assault, facing both a 16 week prison sentence and £100 fine, and Sterling was heavily praised for his resilience when taking to the pitch less than four hours later.
Straight after last month’s match against Montenegro, Sterling claimed that it is ‘now time for the people that are in charge to put a real stamp on [racism]’ because fining people has proved an inadequate precaution - ‘you can fine someone but what’s that going to do?’ - leading to broader discussions about how to tackle the ongoing issue of racism within football. Whilst some have suggested increasing the substantiality of the fines, others have favoured the idea that teams would walk off the pitch or that stadium bans should be implemented by the likes of FIFA and UEFA. Gareth Southgate, current manager of England’s national men’s team, has also spoken on the issue, taking a similar stance to that of Sterling; ‘sanctions are worthless if there is nothing alongside that to help educate people’. The idea of walking off the pitch has been equally controversial, with Sterling claiming today that he believes walking off the pitch would let the racists win, insisting that he’d rather see considerable action such as stadium bans taken by the governing bodies.
While UEFA’s decision remains unknown at this point, Sterling has continued to speak out about the issue and has since been named as Sportsman of the Year at the British Ethnic Diversity Sports Awards. His voice (and tweets) will no-doubt assist vital sporting organisations such as Kick It Out who are continuing to work ‘towards equality, inclusion and cohesion for everyone who plays, watches or works in football’ - a shared vision with the Manchester City star who hopes to ‘#KickRacismOutOfOurStadiums’.