Many who have read what I have written in the past will know my thoughts on Raheem Sterling. But for those who don’t, I’ll say one word: overrated.
Probably the worst piece of business by an English club since Fulham’s purchase of a Michael Jackson statue in 2011. It’s no surprise that the transfer has bought nothing but negative publicity.
Not one to feature in the press for the right reasons, Sterling must be getting used to seeing his name dragged through the mud. Whether it be fathering children, or abusing women, the only association Sterling (£) has ever had with a charity is the donation.
Costing City an outrageous £49 million, the price of 490 million Freddos (when I grew up), now more like 245 million, a disgrace in its own right, Sterling is not one for making friends in football.
Fortunately for Sterling though is Fabien Delph’s amazing U-turn to sign for City, giving the public a new villain to abuse. No longer the face of evil in the Premier League, Sterling’s media presence is starting to die out, but his story never lies too far from the lips of football fans up and down the country.
Now as stated in the opening paragraph, I don’t rate Sterling and believe his actions to force a transfer was a disgrace to the game. The way he treated the club that gave him the chance to play in arguably the best league in the world, was totally unacceptable.
It may well be the modern state of football, where players no longer honour the contracts they sign, but call me old fashioned, I just do not agree with it.
Nothing about the way this transfer was conducted surprised me, but what has surprised me was a conversation I had with a work colleague and like Mr Delph, I’m about to take my own U-turn.
After speaking with someone who grew up in the same area as Sterling, my eyes were opened; there is more to this story than just a transfer fee and an immature player. I decided to dig a little deeper and spoke to someone I knew within football, who had a close relationship with Sterling, helping in his player development and subsequent transfer to Liverpool from QPR.
They, like many, also disagreed in the manner in which this transfer took place, but what I’ve learnt about the player changed my opinion all together. Though my earlier comment still stands, I question my original thoughts on his character.
Sterling states the reason he left Liverpool is because he had ambitions of competing at the highest level and winning trophies, something we have heard all before, but becomes less of a cliché once you’ve heard the back story.
Sterling, born in Jamaica, moved to the UK at a very young age. He grew up in St Raph’s housing estate, situated in North West London, an area not known for its prestigious schools or sporting academies and more so for its gangs. Putting it bluntly this is not an area you would associate with a top class sportsman.
But for many in urban London, entertainment and sport are seen as an escape and a way to make a better life from the harsh realities of poverty and gang crimes.
Described as ambitious from a young age, he forged a great emotion with the game. He had a hunger to be the best, which has seen him rise from his deprived situation to national stardom, in such a short space of time. He grew up just a stone throw away from Wembley, he now play’s there on a regular basis; a true success story.
Now I mentioned there was more to this story than I originally thought and what I now believe is that this transfer had some major positives within it. Now I’m not just speaking about QPR’s 20% from the transfer fee, I’m talking about genuine contributions to society, more so in the area he grew up.
As stated, Sterling grew up in St Raph’s, not an estate priding itself of its academic accomplishments. Now I’m sure many have walked out of this area, like many around London and been a success, but how many of them earn over £100,000 a week?
He may be a household name, but this has heightened since his move. Not the most expensive transfer in British history, many will argue he is up there with the best and this level of stardom can make him a real hero, a role model and an inspiration for kids for just like him.
He may be hated by Liverpool fans currently, but I bet parents in his old estate love him. Actual evidence to show their children, that hard work and determination pays off, helping them steer their children clear of a troublesome road. It’s no secret kids are drawn to an easy lifestyle of crime; the difficult task is getting them to school and keeping them there.
So what better example for a troublesome kid than Sterling, a child who attended a special primary school because of his behavioural problems, now a national superstar. Sterling has the power to inspire.
But it’s not just the estate who can benefit, his old football team and school will also see the effects.
Alpha & Omega CF FC, ever heard of them? Me neither. But for those in the area, this club is known as the team Sterling played for. We’ve all read about the troubles grassroots level face in this country, teams are struggling to stay afloat, whether it’s through funding or a lack of players.
Kids don’t have the same level of desire to play Sunday league as they used to. But if you take a look at the Alpha & Omega website, you won’t see this problem. Filled with news on the club, plus the added extras of all things Raheem Sterling, there is a feel of excitement for those involved, with players probably flooding in to play for this team.
Most will be aware of the team Senrab FC, famous for producing massive numbers of professional footballer’s at all levels, something Alpha & Omega now have a platform to emulate.
His old school Copland High, now called ARK Elvin Acedemy, will benefit largely. What better image of success to post around the school than Sterling? Though it may not encourage academics, it could be vital for those children who don’t have the motivation to learn.
Not every child takes to learning like a fish in water, some struggle leading to bad behaviour. Now some of these kids may show promise in other areas but without an education, most of these kids will never accomplish their potential, with teachers struggling to help them.
Sterling’s story can help make the difference. Help teachers find these children a passion, a purpose if you will, to sway away from trouble and if they’re lucky, follow in Sterling’s footsteps.
Most kids growing up don’t have a role model; some may have just found one.
Lastly I want to highlight something that most likely happened the day he signed his first professional contract, but it’s also worth a mention. Sterling, raised by his mother, a woman who worked all hours as a nurse to provide a better life for her son, has seen her efforts pay off. Probably as equally proud of her son if he worked at Sainsbury’s as she is now. There is no doubt in my mind Sterling has repaid her and then some.
A young boy from Jamaica, now all grown up and providing a life for his entire family, they couldn’t have dreamed of living. Sterling has done more than irritated some football fans, he has changed lives and for that, I say fair play.