Manchester City star Raheem Sterling says despite his mother being proud of him for tackling racism in football he does not see himself as a role model.
The 49-times capped England forward, who can help City seal a unique domestic treble if they beat Watford in the FA Cup final, told Friday’s Daily Mirror his speaking out over racism has not altered anything but it has opened up a debate which could yield results.
Sterling, who is delivering a speech in New York next week on racism, was subject to racist taunts in a match with Chelsea and he and other black players were racially abused by Montenegro supporters in a Euro 2020 qualifier.
“People keep saying that,” the 24-year-old said in reference to being an inspiration.
“I don’t want to say role model because I don’t see myself as one.
“It gives my mum pride, I’ll tell you that.
“I don’t think I’ve changed anything, but I’ve opened up a door for work to be done.
“I adore this country because the people here are so loving and so willing to listen to try and do things for the better.
“I’m giving a speech in New York next week… I’m dreading it! No, I’m really looking forward to it, bit nervous, but.…”
‘That was horrible’
On the pitch, Sterling enjoyed his best ever season for City scoring 23 goals in all competitions — and was used in almost every game even with such talents as Leroy Sane and Riyad Mahrez in reserve.
Sterling, who has set up his own YouTube channel which aside from addressing serious issues also presents him in a more light-hearted manner, says it was another of Pep Guardiola’s signings — Bernardo Silva from Monaco in 2017 — that sparked him into proving himself.
“That was a massive turning point when the wingers came in to push me. It was a good thing,” he said.
“At the time, it was only me and Leroy (Sane) and I just knew that it would push me again to do better because I knew there was someone else there.
“When you’re in a team, it’s not about ego, it’s about raising your game to help the team.
“People had started to doubt me and I began to doubt myself as well and believe what was being said.
“It wasn’t about getting my belief back, but I kind of blocked people out. I was like, ‘OK, no problem, I’ll show you.’”
For Sterling, the worst moment of the season, in terms of what happened on the pitch, was his goal in stoppage time in the Champions League quarter-final second leg clash with Tottenham Hotspur which was ruled out due to Sergio Aguero being ruled offside.
“In the last seconds, I’m thinking I’ve scored that goal, the World Cup final goal. I celebrated like that,” he told the Mirror.
“Then I remember seeing the VAR and remember thinking: ‘Yeah, I think Sergio could have been offside…’
“I remember going home that night and my son was in the car. He’s only two now but absolutely loves football.
“He was kind of sleepy, then he woke up as I was bringing him upstairs and he goes: ‘Daddy score, Daddy win.’ And I went: ‘No, Daddy scored but we didn’t win today.’
“That was horrible, absolutely horrible.”