• Pete @ManCityOracle

Raheem Sterling: The Special One

Raheem Sterling the bad boy, that's the image UK press have tried to portray him as.

'Sterling Insults fans by showing off blinging house' - Daily Mail.

'Sterling shoots himself in the foot showing off new tattoo' - BBC.

'From £100K per week to troubled youth' - The Sun.

When Raheem Sterling was just two years old, his father was shot and killed. His mother, once an athlete in the Jamaican national team, decided to move the family to England to study for a degree hence hopefully provide a better life for her family.

BBC Radio 4 podcast, “Profile” provides an excellent account of Sterling’s rise to stardom with several testimonies by the people that knew him. Despite Sterling’s early struggles, he remained focused on the thing he loved most, football. It was his 'big money' move to Manchester City that propelled him into stardom and the start of the relentless negative press.

However, the media overlooked the resilience and mental strength of Raheem Sterling. He didn’t like the racist undertones of many articles and the media coverage, hence challenged them.

Today, Raheem Sterling will almost definitely retain his place in the England starting XI against ex Manchester City manager, Roberto Mancini’s Italy. His goals, assists and relentless energy the main reason England have reached Euro 2020 final.

Raheem sat down and talked about the steps in his life to get to this point with The Players' Tribune:

"I grew up in the shadow of my dream. Literally. I watched the new Wembley stadium go up from my back garden. One day, I walked outside and I saw this massive arch in the sky. It was rising up over the top of the housing estates like a mountain. I used to kick about in this green right by my house, and I could take a shot on goal and then turn round to celebrate and the Wembley arch would literally be right above my head. It was like you were there.

I was really like, I can play there. I can do it.

Not everybody believed. I had a teacher when I was 14, and to be fair I was probably messing about, not really listening. So she said, “Raheem! What’s wrong with you? Do you think football is going to be your end goal? Do you know how many millions of kids want to be footballers?”

And I thought, O.K., fair enough, I’ve heard those odds before.

But then she said, “What makes you so special?”

And that line really stuck with me.

In my head, I literally went, “Ehhhh? What makes me so special? O.K.! We’ll see.”

Two months later, I got called up to the England U-16s, and I set up two goals against Northern Ireland. It was all on the television and everything. That was a big moment for me. I went back to school on Monday, and all of a sudden that teacher was my best friend in the world.

Funny how that works.

But the real turning point came when I was 15. Liverpool wanted me, but it was three hours away from home. And I’ll never forget sitting my mum down and telling her that I wanted to go. I love all my friends from my neighbourhood. They’re still my best friends in the world. But at that time, there was a lot of crime and stabbings going on, and I felt like Liverpool was a chance for me to go away and just focus on football.

In my head, I was like, O.K., this is it. My mum sacrificed her life to get me here. My sister sacrificed her life to get me here. I’m here. Let’s go.

My mum, though, she would still be calling me every morning. “Raheem! Did you say your prayers today? Have you given thanks for waking up today?”

I’m like, “Mum! Yes, I have Mum!”

That was probably the most important time of my life. My whole mission was to get a proper contract so that my mother and sister didn’t have to stress anymore. The day that I bought my mum a house, that was probably the happiest I’ve ever been.

I can remember when I was a kid, there was like three or four times when I was on the bus home from training and my mum would text me a new address.

And she would say, “This is where we’re living now.”

There was a two-year period where we were moving all the time, because we couldn’t afford the rent. At the time, I barely thought about it. It was just normal to me. But now I understand what it must have been like for her, going through that struggle.