LONDON: England need to thank Raheem Sterling for heading to Rome early this Sunday morning for the Euro 2020 quarter -finals against Ukraine and they are now the option to advance to the European Championship final for the first time.
The Manchester City star has already played in his fourth major tournament, but his talent is not fully appreciated by England fans.
Still a teenager when England were knocked out at the group stage of the 2014 World Cup, Sterling was one of those players who felt frustrated when Roy Hodgson’s squad was knocked out at Euro 2016 at the hands of Iceland.
On social media, Sterling labeled himself a “Hated Person” during the tournament and faced negative stories in the press about his lavish lifestyle as well as other issues.
He did not forget what he felt.
In 2018, a month after helping England reach the semi -finals of the World Cup despite failing to score, Sterling received racist ridicule while playing for Manchester City at Chelsea.
At the age of 26, he is now a senior player in England’s young squad with 65 caps representing a brave squad and aware of the social aspects that make Gareth Southgate’s squad respected on and off the field.
Faced with ridicule from some of their own supporters, England players continued to kneel before each match in the tournament to show their battle against racial injustice.
Sterling always used criticism as motivation to prove it was actually wrong.
Before Euro 2020 began, there was a demand for him to be dropped by Southgate after a disappointing season for City, when he was overshadowed by team -mate Phil Foden for a place in the starting line -up.
“Please keep asking that question because if we can’t give him motivation, surely someone else can,” Southgate said after England’s first win at the knockout stage against Germany in a major tournament since 1966.
“He’s a fighter,” Southgate said. “He has a strong endurance and wants success. He has improved over the last few years to really score.
“The encouragement for him has been amazing. We know what he’s been through with England and I’m very happy to be able to give a good performance.”