World Cup star Raheem Sterling has praised England as a country where “a naughty boy who comes from nothing can live his dream”.
As the 23-year-old England international, who helped Manchester City claim the Premier League title last season, prepares for Sunday’s clash with Panama, he reflected on his difficult childhood, which saw him arrive in the country from Jamaica at the age of five and struggle to fit in at school.
In a revealing interview with the Players’ Tribune, he said: “I’m telling you right now, England is still a place where a naughty boy who comes from nothing can live his dream.”
Sterling also expressed his gratitude to his mother Nadine, recalling the days when he and and his older sister Lakima used to go to work with her at 5am before school at her job as a hotel cleaner.
The player, who was criticised on the eve of the finals over a tattoo of a gun on his leg, said: “If people want to write about my mum’s bathroom in her house, all I have to tell you is that 15 years ago, we were cleaning toilets in Stonebridge and getting breakfast out of the vending machine.
“If anybody deserves to be happy, it’s my mum. She came to this country with nothing and put herself through school cleaning bathrooms and changing bed sheets, and now she’s the director of a nursing home. And her son plays for England.”
Sterling’s father was murdered when he was two and shortly afterwards, his mother took the difficult decision to leave him and his sister with their grandmother and travel to England to study for a degree in order to better provide for her family.
With the family having eventually been re-united in London, he was initially removed from his primary school because of his behaviour, but eventually knuckled down and in football, found a platform upon which to make his name.
As he approached secondary school age, Arsenal came calling, but his mother persuaded him to opt instead for QPR rather than risk being swallowed up by the Gunners’ youth system.
Sterling said: “It was quite hard for my family, because my mum would never let me go to training alone and she always had to work, so my sister would have to take me all the way out to Heathrow.
“We’d leave at 3.15pm and get home at 11pm. Every. Single. Day. Imagine being 17 years old and doing that for your little brother. And I never once heard her say, ‘Nah, I don’t wanna take him’.”