‘My mum always told me to love myself and who I am,’ said the Manchester City star.
Raheem Sterling declared “I’m black and I’m proud” as he rejected calls for players who receive racial abuse to walk off the pitch.
The Manchester City forward was speaking after a weekend of football that was marred by shameful events in England and Scotland, just days after Tottenham’s Danny Rose said he was looking forward to retiring from a game which has done too little to tackle the problem.
There have been calls for players to walk off the pitch if they are abused, but Sterling said he felt that would be the wrong move.
“I wouldn’t personally agree with it,” said the 24-year-old, who celebrated scoring in England’s Euro 2020 qualifying win in Montenegro, a match which was overshadowed by the racial abuse of visiting players, by putting his hands to his ears.
“To win the game would hurt them even more, they’re only trying to get you down.”
“If you walk off they win, to score or win would be better.”
Sterling, who has consistently raised the issue after receiving personal abuse, does not understand what drives people to be racially abusive.
“It’s offensive but my mum always told me I’m a wonderful black child and I know this,”
“I’m black and I’m proud, and I’m confident in my body. Some people can’t take it but my mum always told me to love myself and who I am.”
Sterling was speaking ahead of City’s Champions League clash with Tottenham, whose left-back Rose said last week he “can’t wait to see the back of the game” because of inaction on the problem.
Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino said the issue of racism must be tackled at every level of society.
“I think it’s a very delicate situation. It’s not easy,”
“It’s a very personal situation, how you feel, your emotion and how you can manage your emotion.”
“We are here trying to help everyone. It’s a thing we are, of course, fighting all together to try to stop.
“We need to stop it not only in football but in all different areas and situations.
“Danny and Sterling, we are very sorry for them, but they have the capacity, they are famous people, they have the (platform to speak out).
“How many people outside cannot say anything but only go home and cry? That is a thing that I hate and I will do everything in my power to try to stop.”
Lancashire Police on Monday said a 20-year-old man from Sheffield had been arrested after handing himself in at Blackpool Police Station following an abusive message sent to Wigan player Nathan Byrne on Twitter on Saturday.
“The man has since been released under investigation pending a charging decision by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS),” a police statement said.
There was also an arrest after Derby’s 3-3 draw at Brentford where Rams midfielder Duane Holmes was the victim of alleged abuse.
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Derby manager Frank Lampard said: “(Duane’s) OK. He was upset at the time, which is understandable but now he’s OK. It’s up to the authorities to deal with it now.
“This is not just a problem for football. It’s everywhere.”
Northampton said several members of their first-team squad were also allegedly abused prior to their match at Notts County.
Watford striker Troy Deeney also allegedly suffered racial abuse on social media in the aftermath of Watford’s FA Cup semi-final victory over Wolves, during which he scored a last-gasp equaliser from the penalty spot.
He said on Instagram he would be removing comments from his posts after abuse from “small-minded people”.
“Due to events from the last 24 hours I will be taking comments off my posts.
“To me this isn’t a game, when you racially abuse my family or myself I have to take measures to prevent young people seeing these comments and thinking that it’s acceptable, And having to expose people I care about to these small minded people.”
The Professional Footballers’ Association branded the incidents over the weekend “another stark reminder of how crucial anti-racism and equality development work is across football and society”.
It said in a statement:
“Racism is a societal issue but football has the opportunity to demonstrate to society that it is unacceptable.
“Everyone needs to come together to ensure swift and robust action to tackle racism, and we commend the Championship clubs involved in this weekend’s incidents for their decisive action and statements.”
The PFA added it would continue to lobby the Football Association, UEFA and FIFA for stronger sanctions.
In Scotland, a 38-year-old man was charged with using racist language at the Edinburgh derby.
Police Scotland are also investigating after footage was posted on Twitter which purported to show racist abuse directed at Hibernian midfielder Marvin Bartley during his side’s 2-1 win over Hearts.
A police spokeswoman said: “Police in Edinburgh are investigating following a report of a hate crime at Tynecastle Stadium.”
Hearts said they would “take appropriate action against any individual found guilty of racist behaviour within Tynecastle”.