LONDON — Raheem Sterling has said he believes it is better to score and win when faced with racism than it is for a team to walk off the pitch.
Manchester City and England forward Sterling has become a key figure in the fight against racism, speaking out following incidents at Chelsea and Montenegro and criticising some media coverage of black players.
Some senior football figures, including City boss Pep Guardiola and Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp, have said they would be prepared to take players off in response to racism, but Sterling said he believed winning a game was a more effective response.
“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion,” he told a news conference. “My mum has taught me how to love myself, how to love my skin colour and how to be comfortable in my skin colour.
“I wouldn’t personally agree with it [walking off]. I would rather go and win the game because that would hurt them even more.
“They’re trying to get you down. If you do walk off the pitch as a group, then that makes them win. If you score a goal to win the match, then that’s even a better feeling which beats them.”
The 24-year-old faces England teammate Danny Rose in a Champions League quarterfinal first leg at Spurs on Tuesday, days after Rose said he could not wait to retire from football because of the game’s failure to clamp down on racism.
“I think it’s something he’s come across quite a number of times and it probably is getting a bit much for him,” Sterling said.
“I respect his comments and it’s a shame to hear that, really. Not everyone’s the same, not everyone takes it the same way — to hear that, it’s not really a nice thing to hear.”
Asked about his role in the fight against racism, Sterling said: “I don’t really think I can make a difference, this is something that has been happening since before I was born, before my parents were born, so I can only speak up about events that happen to me and the people around me and that’s as much as I can do to raise awareness.
“I’m not trying to be someone that leads or something like that. I can just raise awareness, and it’s for people in higher places to do their job.”
City boss Guardiola said: “Unfortunately it is not a problem with football or one specific area, it is a social problem. It’s always difficult to understand, in the 21st century, why we are debating this kind of situation.
“All I can say is what Danny Rose has done, well done. We have to fight every day to eradicate it and make a better society.”
Juventus’ France midfielder Blaise Matuidi hit out at the increase in racist incidents after he was one of three Juve players racially abused by fans at Cagliari last week.
“It’s sad,” he said. “It happened to me last year in this stadium and we cannot tolerate it.
“You can tell me: ‘Maybe it’s not racist, they just want to unsettle you.’ No. These are things you do not say, and they must be punished.
“I could not calm down. I did not want to ignore it. You have to fight it. We can’t allow this any more. We must have the courage to end it.
“These are stupid people. They should never be allowed to come to the stadium again.”