Sterling calls for stadium bans to punish racist ‘idiots’

Matt Stead

Raheem Sterling has called for stadiums bans to be doled out as punishment for any acts of racism.

The 24-year-old pulled his ears in a gesture to the Montenegro supporters who had racially abused England’s black players during the 5-1 Euro 2020 qualifying win in Podgorica.

There were suggestions of some issues early in the game but it was clear in the closing stages as monkey chants were aimed at Danny Rose following a late tackle which earned him a yellow card.

Sterling has spoken out about racism in recent months and, speaking after the match, called for stronger punishment for such incidents.

“It is a shame really because it was a massive team performance at a difficult ground, a difficult place to come,” he said.

“We knew how difficult it would be, we knew it would be hard at times but we stuck together as a team and there were some great performances in there today but then a couple of idiots, mind my language, but a couple of idiots ruin a great night.

“It is a shame we are talking about this to be honest with you, it is 2019 and I think there should be a real punishment for this, not just for the few people being banned.

“It needs to be a collective thing. This stadium holds 15,000 and I think the punishment should be that as a nation your fans are chanting racist abuse so I think it should be the whole stadium can’t watch it.

“Then when that ban is lifted your fans will think twice not to do anything silly like that because they all love football, they all want to be there to support their nation.”

Sterling also explained why he celebrated in the manner he did, with a missile thrown from the stands in his direction as a result, explaining that he is still trying to raise awareness of the issue.

“I just wanted to let them know that they need to tell me more than that we are black and what we resemble to affect us really,” he told BBC Radio 5Live.

“That was the message really, I was happy to score and give them something to talk about.

“It’s not just young black men, it is young kids growing up in diverse cities, it’s not just black kids I want to reach out to.

“England, we’ve got a diverse country, it’s 2019 as I keep saying and there’s lots of different places in our country, it’s just bringing awareness and letting people know that it’s new times, it’s different.

“The FA can only do so much, we’ve got to leave this to the people in charge to really try and make a proper stance on it.

“Banning one or two people isn’t going to change anything, even with our fans, I would say the exact same thing.

“The people in charge need to actually do it as a whole, the whole Montenegro fans, I am not the one who makes the rules but they have got to do something that makes a real stance.

“It has got to be something that is serious for them and makes them think twice about doing something like this again.”

Sterling scored England’s fifth goal after a Michael Keane header, a Ross Barkley brace and a strike from captain Harry Kane turned the game in favour of the visitors after Marko Vesovic’s effort put Montenegro ahead.

Barkley, who was eligible to play for Nigeria as he has as a Nigerian grandfather, also spoke out about the situation.

“I was off the pitch at the time when it looked like something had happened and a few of the players were looking a bit disappointed,” he said.

“But I have heard a couple of minutes again and it is not acceptable what has gone on and I’m sure it will get dealt with by the FA and UEFA. It is a day it should not be happening.

“You would think racism has gone but I’m sure it will get dealt with. It is not acceptable.”