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Raheem Sterling just can't win

TRIBUTE: Raheem Sterling has been criticised for his new gun tattoo – a tribute to his late father who was shot and killed

OKAY, SO England beat Nigeria at Wembley, but let's not dwell on that's here. More importantly to discuss is England’s ‘yardie’ factor, one Raheem Sterling.

There is nobody more hated and despised in the England squad than him. Please don’t ask me why, cah me no know.

But can you blame him for being equivocal about this country and his role in helping it at the World Cup in Russia?

In the post-Nigeria match interview, Sterling once again committed himself and his energies to “this country”.

Saying that he would give his all to “this country”. Surely that should have been enough to qualify him for ex-Tory par- ty chairman Norman Tebbit’s infamous acid test (whereby our allegiance and the allegiance of all black and brown people to this country is tested by whether they support England or their ancestral homeland when it comes to cricket).

Sterling says he is support- ing “this country” with his blood, sweat and tears and, yet, people are wondering why he has to say “this country” as if he doesn’t belong to it.

As if he landed here from Mars just the other day, but nevertheless prepared to come to the assistance of “this country” at the time of its great need and despair in football, just the same way his ancestors had come to this country’s aid when it begged for help from the colonies in the two world wars.

I mean, what more does Sterling have to say to make him a fully paid-up and loyal Member of the British Empire and the England squad and a representative of all the race inna “dis-yah country”?

If he were to say, “I am committed to supporting my country in the World Cup”, no doubt his distractors would be there saying, “Why does he have to stress my country? Does that mean he is committed to supporting Jamaica, Nigeria or one of those other African countries? What does he mean by my country?”

He just can’t win, can he? And it’s not just Sterling. It seems that few of us can win in England if we’re black. I mean if we’re really black. Or, if we’re too black. Because whatever we try to do and however much we try to t in and adapt there is always a doubt in the minds of many people that there ain’t no too black in the Union Jack.

That we are holding something back and that, therefore, we can not fully be trusted with the top jobs. Sterling, for example, will never be trusted with the England captaincy. No way. Not in a million years – he is too black, too live! And before you say that other footballers of colour have been trusted in the past with the England foot ball captaincy, I would argue that they were not too black.

And this is not a criticism of Paul Ince, Sol Campbell and Rio Ferdinand, not in the least. There is more than one way to navigate yourself through the white man’s jungle. In this multi-faceted and complex black condition that de nes us in this multi-cultural Britain that we find ourselves in, it is not always smart or advantageous to be too black. Not if we want to get to the tip top of politics and commerce.

And the England captaincy, let’s face it, is a political job. That’s why David Beckham was rubbish at it. And that’s why Ian Wright or John Barnes would never have been chosen for the role.

And that’s what a lot of people cannot get their heads around with regards to Sterling. I mean, he is a yardie, through and through. Case in point, that tattoo of an M16 going down his ‘shooting leg’ that caused such a controversy the other day, is there one black person in Britain, Jamaica or anywhere else in the world that didn’t immediately get that?

His dad was gunned down and he is memorialising his father by getting a tattoo of a firearm on his leg – his shooting leg – pointing to his foot. The poetry of it is exquisite. We have to praise Sterling for his ingenuity and the clarity with which he sends out the message to all the yutes for whom he is a role model, that you don’t have to pick up no guns and to shoot your brother down because you have enough repower in your being – physically or mentally or intellectually – to shut down all your distractors.

Is that not what you call the philosophy of Marcus Garvey right there in one tattoo – one God, one aim one destiny/get up you mighty nation? England coach Gareth Southgate gets that and he tried to explain it, but the media gatekeepers of middle England weren’t having it.

As far as they were concerned, here was just another example that black guys are outta order. And on the good ship Jeezas, Sajid Javid is singing, “Thank you very much for the Raheem Sterling, thank you very, very, very much.”

Sometimes, of course, it’s not what we say but the way that we say it. If Sterling had written a poem that went something like this...

I wonder lonely as a cloud on the football pitch
Thinking of my dad and the way in which
He was murdered and I want to say
To all the yutes that this is not the way
Use your talent to elevate yourself
And let your skill speak for itself

...everybody would have been hailing him as England’s next captain. Sometimes it just doesn’t pay to be too black.

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