Raheem Sterling, 26, has been a stand-out player for club and country for quite some time now and he’s finally getting the praise he deserves. The boy from Brent, north-west London, represented England in their first international final in 55 years, where England beat Germany to become World Champions. So let’s revisit his journey.
Sterling lost his father at a very young age to a gunshot and was raised by his single mother, Nadine, since the age of 2. A few years later, the two moved to England in the hope of a better and safer upbringing. However, Nadine’s struggles as a single mother were no lesser in England than back home; she cleaned toilets and changed bedsheets to fund the living of her and her son. Today, he has the utmost respect for her, “If anybody deserves to be happy, it’s my mum.” He says. Not only did she raise her son, but in a time of rising violence and hate crime, she kept Sterling far from the streets and occupied with football. His mother knew he had great potential and so did teacher Chris Beschi; “If you carry on the way you’re going, by the age of 17, you’ll be playing for England” and he wasn’t wrong. On the 14th of November, at 17 years, Sterling made his first England appearance.
Sterling spent 4 years at his local youth team Alpha & Omega before signing for Queens Park Rangers, aged 10. At QPR, Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea, Fulham, and Manchester City were all scouting Raheem until he signed for Liverpool under Rafael Benitez, in 2010. He was a regular for Liverpool’s youth team and scored in their FA Youth Cup win followed by 5 goals in their 9-0 win against Southend United.
Sterling made his Premier League debut on the 24th of March, becoming the third-youngest player, 17 years and 107 days, to play for Liverpool. On the 20th of October, he scored his first competitive senior goal and became the second-youngest player to score for Liverpool, only Michael Owen being above him. Raheem was a popular figure in the squad and among the fans in the very early years of his career. He formed a formidable relationship with striking partners Daniel Sturridge and Lewis Suarez. In 2014, Raheem Sterling was voted the Young Player of the Season for Liverpool and the following year got the Young Player of the Year and Golden Boy award.
At age 20, Raheem made his move to Manchester City for a record-breaking £49m to become the most expensive English player and labelled as ‘one of the best attacking talents in the world’ by Manuel Pellegrini.
FIGHT OFF THE PITCH
In 2018, Raheem Sterling, a star in the world of football, took to Instagram to extend his social position taking a stance against discrimination and racial injustice. He questioned the footballing authorities on how much they do to encourage equal rights and justice.
Sterling’s voice had managed to reach a global audience as he evoked an equal rights movement, which was supported by FIFA and UEFA. He highlighted unequal treatment by tabloids and news outlets as well as abuse and mistreatment by fans, on and off the pitch. This sparked a national conversation with many people of power acknowledging this rising concern, including England footballing legends, Ian Wright and Jamie Carragher.
Sterling’s consistent battle against racism led to many teams worldwide publicly taking a stand against racism with an approved solution of giving players the right to walk off the pitch if receiving racial abuse, while the authorities look to deal with the bigger issue- educating people against any form of discrimination.
In 2021, athletes speaking out about racism and protesting against racial injustice has become a new norm, a massive step in the right direction, all a product of a shout for help from a young kid from Brent. Later that year, Raheem Sterling was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for his services to racial equality in sport.
RAHEEM STERLING – THE PLAYER TODAY
Sterling has had some exceptional coaches throughout his career, but under the guidance of Pep Guardiola, Sterling had gone from a good player, to simply world-class. He has developed into one of Europe’s finest attackers, reaching double figures for goals for 4 consecutive seasons, surpassing 100 career goals in all competitions. In the 2017-18 season, Sterling played a crucial role in Manchester City’s record-breaking title win, as they became the first English team to register 100 Premier League points in a single season. In the following season, he was instrumental in a domestic treble as Pep’s team won the FA Cup, Carabao Cup, and the Premier League. Individual awards, including the PFA Young Player of the Year and Football Writer’s Association’s Footballer of the Year, were rewarded.
Sterling is also a vital figure in the international team. He was a first-team player in the 2018 FIFA World Cup when England advanced to the semi-finals but then lost to Croatia. In the 2020 Euro’s he was involved in 15 of England’s 37 goals in the qualifiers and was their top scorer in the actual tournament. England may have just fallen short at the final stage, however, their journey to the finals showed exactly how much the players have progressed and grown individually, and together as a team.
It is the closest England have ever come to silverware in the Euro’s, and undoubtedly, they still have much more to learn. From the view of a fan, speaking on behalf of the nation, we have all the players to thank for an unforgettable journey and a memorable summer.