A touching article by Raheem Sterling detailing his incredible rise to fame has resurfaced online after the England attacker was hailed the team’s ‘best player’ this tournament.
His illustrious career began at Queens Park Rangers before he signed to Liverpool in 2010, and Manchester City in 2015 in one of the highest-paid transfers of all time. He made his England debut in November 2012.
But it’s not been all plain sailing for Sterling – who is no stranger to setbacks and criticism both on and off the pitch.
In his first-person account for The Players Tribune, titled ‘It was All a Dream,’ the 26-year-old describes his humble beginnings and the incredible part his family played.
He wrote how his mother convinced him to go to QPR, and that his sister took three buses with him every day to get him to training.
“She said, ‘If you go there (Arsenal), there’s going to be 50 players who are just as good as you. You’ll just be a number. You need to go somewhere where you can work your way up,'” he wrote.
“She convinced me to go to QPR, and it was probably the best decision I ever made. At QPR, they didn’t let me slip up. But 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.
“Three buses. The 18 to the 182 to the 140. The red double-deckers with the blue wool 80s vibe on the seats. Spent ages on those. We’d leave at 3:15 and get home at 11 p.m. Every. Single. Day. She’d sit upstairs in the little café and chill until I was done with training. 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.”
“At the time, I didn’t understand how much she was sacrificing. Her and my mum got me here. My whole family played a massive part in my life. Without them, you wouldn’t even know me.”
Raheem’s father was murdered when he was just two years old – which he said ‘shaped his entire life.’
He moved to London from Jamaica aged five to be with his mum, who was studying for a degree while working as a cleaner.
“My mum always made sure we had what we needed, but let’s just say it wasn’t The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, know what I mean?” he wrote.
“I’ll never forget waking up at five in the morning before school and helping her clean the toilets at the hotel in Stonebridge. I’d be arguing with my sister, like, “No! No! You got the toilets this time. I got the bed sheets.”
“The only good part about it was that my mum would let us pick anything we wanted from the vending machine when we finished. So you know I was going straight for the Bounty bar every time.”
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Recalling his school years, Sterling admitted he was ‘naughty’ and had to leave his mainstream primary school for a smaller one where kids were given more one-to-one attention.
“So I’ll never forget, I was riding the bus one day, looking out the window and I saw all these other girls and boys walking to school on their own, having a laugh,” he told the Player And that really hit me and I thought, ‘I want to do that. I want to be like everyone else’. There’s nothing wrong with me. I’m just quiet.
“So I got on my best behaviour straight away and, after about a year, I moved back to the big school.”
His mum convinced him to snub Arsenal to join QPR as a young teenager and then, at 15, she rang him every day to remind him to say his prayers when he moved to Liverpool to continue his football education from his new ‘home’, living with an elderly couple on Merseyside.
“For two years, I went ghost,” he said. “My whole mission was to get a proper contract so that my mother and sister didn’t have to stress anymore. The day that I bought my mum a house, that was probably the happiest I’ve ever been.”
He finished the candid article by offering hope to youngsters across the country.
“I’m telling you right now …
“England is still a place where a naughty boy who comes from nothing can live his dream.”
England take on Italy in the Euros final this Sunday, July 11