Raheem Sterling has said that being targeted with racial abuse at Stamford Bridge in December 2018 did not make him think twice before joining Chelsea from Manchester City this summer.
One Chelsea fan received a lifetime ban and five were temporarily suspended from attending games after the incident, but it did not cross Sterling’s mind when he was looking for his next challenge after deciding to leave City. “It wasn’t something that played on my mind at all,” the 27-year-old said. “I can’t let an incident from individuals change my perception of the club.”
Sterling was asked if he would be willing to meet Colin Wing, the fan who received a lifetime ban from Chelsea. “I have no hatred or malice towards the individual,” the England winger said. “That’s something that I could do right here, right now, or tomorrow. That’s not an issue.
“I think my main focus is to move away from the racial kind of thing and focus more on nurturing and feeding the youth, like myself growing up. Giving them a map to what lies ahead and showing them that they can manifest a lot of stuff if they just put the time in and look after themselves.”
Sterling, who was being unveiled by Chelsea after his £50m move from City, became a pioneering figure in the fight against racism following the abuse he suffered at Stamford Bridge.
“That conversation opened the door for me personally in the sense where it made me understand what my true purpose is other than football,” he said. “Of course football is my main goal and talent but the other thing that gives me the most joy, that’s helping people. So from that incident, I’ve moved away from the racial side of it and focusing on more helping and nurturing young black people.”
Sterling attributed his decision to leave City to falling out of favour under Pep Guardiola in the past two years. “I felt my game time at City was getting limited for different reasons and I couldn’t afford to waste more time,” he said. “When I look back in the future, I never want to look back and see a rise then a decline. So my feeling was a fresh challenge was needed.
“With the time I spent at City, there were a lot of memories and top moments. But the year and a bit I was out of the team taught me a lot about myself and made me value a lot of things. A lot of things happen for a reason.”