Raheem Sterling has described football’s racism problem as “deep” and “nowhere near being sorted”, and believes the organisations that run the game are not doing nearly enough to try to fix it.
The Manchester City forward has become a figurehead in the fight against racism having experienced abuse on the pitch, most recently cupping his hands to his ears in response to chants from Montenegro fans while playing for England last month.
Sterling is one of the signatories to a manifesto launched by The Times calling for more black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people in positions of power, harsher punishments for racist abuse, and actions from social media companies, the media and sponsors.
Writing in the newspaper, Sterling said: “When I was a boy growing up in London, going to school and playing football, I didn’t know what racist abuse was because I never suffered any.
“So it seems crazy that, in 2019, I feel the need to write a piece in a newspaper calling for radical changes to the game that I love. But I do because the racism problem in football is so bad, runs so deep and is nowhere near being sorted.
“You will all have read about the various high-profile racist incidents in recent months: the abuse I received playing for Manchester City away to Chelsea; the booing that the black England players were subjected to in Montenegro; the nastiness that Moise Kean of Juventus endured in Italy and the endless insults thrown at players on social media.
“But that is sadly just the tip of the iceberg. Up and down the game, across the world, black and Asian players, fans and coaches are subjected to racism. Every day, from park football to the Champions League.
“In my opinion, the people who run the game are doing nowhere near enough to solve the problem. And that’s not good enough.”
Sterling would like the percentage of BAME coaches and administrators to mirror that of players in the game, while he feels punishment for racist abuse should be an automatic nine-point deduction for clubs and three games behind closed doors rather than the current starting point of a fine.
He said: “It sounds harsh, but which fan will risk racist behaviour if it might relegate their team or ruin their title bid?
“Small fines do no damage to clubs and countries, but one group of people who do have the money to make them take notice are sponsors. The next time that a club or governing body fails to act appropriately against racism, I would love to see that company pull its money out and make a moral stand.
“I don’t know how long it will take for things to change but we have to start now. I don’t want the next generation of black players to have to put up with this evil.”
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Chelsea’s Callum-Hudson Odoi is set to miss the rest of the season after rupturing his Achilles tendon in the 2-2 draw against Burnley on Monday night.
The 18-year-old was taken off four minutes before half-time after landing awkwardly while attempting to control a dropping ball and was replaced by Pedro Rodriguez.
N’Golo Kante and Gonzalo Higuain blasted two goals in as many minutes for the Blues, but poor set-piece defending allowed Jeff Hendrick and Ashley Barnes to score respond for the Clarets.
Head coach Sarri’s men did move fourth in the table courtesy of their draw, but dropping two points at home could prove costly in the Champions League race.
“Really gutted to end my season with a ruptured Achilles, gotta work hard and try and come back stronger for next season!” Hudson-Odoi tweeted.
The Englishman has played 24 times for the Blues this term and made his international debut in the 5-0 victory against Czech Republic last month.
Hudson-Odoi’s injury adds uncertainty to what will be a summer of speculation about his future at Stamford Bridge, with Bayern Munich heavily linked to signing him.
Head coach Sarri refused to talk to the media after Chelsea’s lacklustre home draw with the Clarets, incensed at being sent off and claiming he was abused by the visiting coaching team.
Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger and Burnley goalkeeping coach Billy Mercer had to be separated by the officials at the final whistle, as a gripping encounter ended in ugly touchline scenes at Stamford Bridge.
David Luiz and Ashley Westwood then clashed as the teams left the field, and that after Gonzalo Higuain had thrown a bottle into the dugout in a petulant response to being replaced late on.
To make the night worse for Chelsea, England forward Callum Hudson-Odoi later confirmed on social media that he will miss the rest of the season with a ruptured Achilles tendon.
Asked if Chelsea will contact the FA over Sarri’s frustrations, Zola said: “I think there will be a follow (up) on that. Maurizio felt very unhappy.
“We understand it’s a football game. You say words because of the adrenaline, but he wasn’t particularly happy.
“If Maurizio said that, probably it’s something that could have been avoided.”
Explaining why he attended the press conference and not Sarri, Zola continued: “The reason is he’s very frustrated, so he’d prefer not to come over here.
“He’s been sent off. I think he’s been offended as well, so he didn’t feel it was the right thing to do, to speak to you.
“I know you wanted him, so I’m sorry. But you can understand: he’s frustrated at the game, frustrated at being sent off, and the other thing. He’d prefer not to come in.
“I think he’s been told something from their bench, but don’t ask me what; I don’t want to go down that line.
“We’ll see what we can do about that.
“It’s a football game, and it’s normal that there is a lot of passion in it.
“We felt very unhappy, and also that Maurizio has been sent off while he was just trying to tell our players to get in position.”
N’Golo Kante and Gonzalo Higuain blasted two goals in as many minutes for the Blues, but poor set-piece defending let Jeff Hendrick and Ashley Barnes plunder goals for the Clarets.
Zola expects Kante to recover quickly from a “contusion” to his ribs, but Hudson-Odoi’s season is at an end.
The 18-year-old will miss England’s Nations League exploits this summer and Chelsea’s final push for a top-four Premier League finish and Europa League glory.
“Really gutted to end my season with a ruptured Achilles, got to work hard and try to come back stronger for next season,” Hudson-Odoi posted on twitter.
Chelsea blew a big chance to stake a strong claim for Champions League qualification, leaving Zola admitting it was an opportunity missed.
“Certainly with three points it would have been a different story,” said Zola.
“We still gained a point on the other teams though, and we will not give up until the end.”
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