England’s World Cup qualifier against Hungary was heavily overshadowed by the chilling racial hatred shown towards their players, which massively highlighted the problems black footballers still have to face in the 21st century.
The shining light in these dark times was, yet again, Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling.
In the latest City is Ours Facebook Live podcast, Jai Mcintosh was accompanied by Renuka Odedra and Manchester City fan brands editor Dom Farrell as they discussed all things City, including Sterling.
Dom: “I was delighted to see him score. At that moment where there was just hate raining down, pinging off the pitch and for Declan Rice to pick up [one of the clubs] and have a drink was brilliant.
“There was all that hate and he unveils just a message of love for a friend who passed away. I thought it was beautiful. It is kind of indicative of how Raheem Sterling holds himself in those situations.
“After there was the penalty appeal incident and the monkey chants were audible. I then thought I wanted him to score because it was the best way to show those people. But, at the same time, should you be in the position where you want someone to do anything where they’re going to suffer racial abuse in their workplace?
“Sterling scored against Montenegro when this was going on, he scored against Bulgaria when this was going on. He always has got the best response to these absolute low-lifes. But the real best solution is FIFA and UEFA to just close grounds and get these people out of there.
“It is a mixed emotions thing where I was so pleased to see him score, but so gut-wrenchingly upset that he and the other England players have to deal with that again and again. It was so inevitable it was going to happen with Hungary, with what happened at the Euros. It is a situation the players should not have been in, quite frankly.”
Jai: “Raheem Sterling is genuinely a real emblem for people who suffer forms of abuse. The way he carries himself, he exceeds the boundaries of being the representative of just racist abuse.
“He has had to deal with tabloid abuse and he has had to deal with so many issues over the last four or five seasons.
“Not for any extended period of time, besides the back-end of last season, have you seen his on-the-field performances dip so a massive credit to Raheem Sterling. That’s now 16 goals in 24 England games- he is literally unbelievable.
“Sterling’s positioning… he might have the best attacking positioning in world football. He is definitely up there, he has this knack of finding space in the box.”
Renuka:“We all know what Sterling is capable of and, yes, he hasn’t had the minutes for City [this season] but I think that’s the beauty of it. When he comes into the England side it’s almost like a reminder of here’s what I can do.
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“Just seeing him going to that corner flag. He took off his shirt as a tribute to a late friend. But just to see his body posture, the way he carries himself, he is very graceful in that manner.
“I don’t think he’s ever done anything untoward in any kind of way in his activism, he’s always been very graceful, very fair. He has never made it about himself. When it comes to racism he has always tried to look at the bigger picture.”
“No matter the inexcusable and damning abuse aimed at Raheem Sterling and the players from an ethinic minority in the England team, gestures and performances by players like Sterling are an inspiration to millions across the globe. Raheem- we are all with you!