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Gary Neville calls Raheem Sterling a 'tough cookie' for dealing with racial discrimination over the years

Written by: Neil Talnikar

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The City winger received a lot of supportive messages on social media since the row over his racial abuse broke out.

Since after Chelsea’s 2-0 win against Manchester City at the Stamford Bridge at the weekend, Raheem Sterling came into the limelight as a video of him falling victim to racial abuse by a Blues fan went viral on social media. The incident was followed by police initiating an investigation and the London-based club, too, promised to take stringent action against the accused. The club also suspended four of its fans and also cancelled the season ticket of Colin Wing, the main culprit behind the slur.

Moreover, after the game, Sterling himself took it to Twitter to post about the racial discrimination that is being practised by the newspapers, throwing light on a recent news being published about two City youngsters- Phil Foden and Tosin Adarabioyo. Both these incidents sparked a huge controversy, with many fans and pundits coming to show their support for the 24 year-old.

Former Manchester United full-back Gary Neville too came out to support Sterling and gave an insight of how the player has faced vicious, racially motivated criticism over the years. The former Liverpool starlet was a part of the England squad at Euro 2016, when Neville was assistant coach under the then manager Roy Hodgson. Speaking about it at Sky Sport’s Monday Night Football show, the 43 year-old said, “He (Sterling) came to see me one-on-one in 2016, I think it was three or four days before the Iceland game. Before the the tournament he was getting so much stick. We were aware of that as a coaching staff that fans were on to him, media were on to him.”



“It then continued into the stadium, to the point where there were boos and groans. He accepted that he would get criticism playing for England, he accepted he would get scrutinised as an England player, he didn’t want any special treatment. But it was so vicious, he felt so targeted, he didn’t know what to do about it.”

The Salford City owner went on to admire Sterling for the way he dealt with the abuse calling it as a ‘miracle almost.’ And yet, he expressed his regret in not being able to provide much help for the player properly, saying, “ Really as a coach, I’m being honest, I didn’t really know how to deal with it. We just tried to patch him up really. To the point where you don’t really deal with the underlying issues ands reflecting now, brushing it aside.”

“Deep down there was an understanding that there was difference in tone to the attacks he was getting as compared to others. The abuse he received, particularly after the tournament and the language that was used against him, I have not seen before,” he added.


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“I’ve lived closely with David Beckham, Wayne Rooney and Gazza (Paul Gascoigne), so I’ve seen a lot over these years, but the nastiness I think is there. He (Sterling) was willing to stand up and carry on playing to an outstanding level, but he has been carrying this for years, not just Saturday.”

Neville also spoke about how Sterling isn’t the only black player from England to face such type of discrimination. “It's not undertones, it's blatant. I was trying to think if anything happened when I played for England and the lad I used to sit next to for 10 years was Ashley Cole. He's had to escape this country, almost like a football refugee. Seeking asylum in MLS to get away from it, the way he's been treated.”

Sterling’s former Liverpool teammate and the now Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher to spoke on the issue saying the winger’s move to Manchester in 2015 created a false impression of his character in public. “What are the perceptions of Sterling in this country, for the majority of people? The perception is that he is a flash black kid from London. And I think it comes from moving from Liverpool, the perception that he's more interested in cars, jewellery, nightclubs than football.”

“Anyone reading that, anyone writing that, I can assure you that is absolute utter nonsense. He was a mouse. I don't really remember speaking to him at Liverpool. He was so quiet, he got on with training. He was just a young kid who was very humble, who would come in and train very well,” added Carragher.

Published: Tue Dec 11, 2018 04:35 PM IST

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