FOOTIE idol Raheem Sterling reveals the key advice he gives to his teens: “Get off social media.”
The Manchester City star revealed how sad he was to read a flurry of online abuse when he started playing for England at the age of 19.
He spoke while guest editing Radio 4’s Today programme, during which he interacted with England boss Gareth Southgate, his mother Nadine and broadcaster Amol Rajan.
When asked by Southgate what he would describe himself as at the age of 19, he said: “Get off social media – don’t read anything about yourself.”
He continued: “When I first came into the team, I was getting the man of the match.
“It was all good. I was playing for England and was really excited about that thing.”
Clicking his fingers once, he said: “And then one thing happens and it’s constantly bad, bad, negative, negative.
“When you’re putting this information into your brain, you only have one way to react.
“You’re going to feel down about yourself. You’re going to start overthinking. The only thing you don’t want to do as a human being, not just a footballer, is overthinking.
“I would say, stay away from seeing anything about yourself.”
Sterling, the hero of the Three Lions team that reached the final of Euro 2020, also spoke about dealing with racism and claimed that the racist incidents were soon forgotten.
He said: “I think when racism comes out and something happens, a lot of times in football, and in the majority as a society, we address it for that period, for that five days, or for that time. do. weeks, and then you know we usually just brush it under the carpet.”
He also spoke about his journey from playing football on the streets of Brent, North West London.
He endured “tough times” starting out in the sport.
And he added: “The one thing I always say, if someone asks about being a professional, is that no one tells you how it will be, no one gives you the formula.
“Many times you’ve encountered scenarios you’ve never faced before.”
Sterling, 27, said he struggled at the age of 18 and 19 to understand how to handle various pressures.
He told the show: “Once you mature and you understand how to deal with these things because you’ve gone through it now, you build that mental resilience.”
The winger scored three goals in the Euro final and was named UEFA’s Team of the Tournament.
But he conceded that personal praise was meaningless after England lost to Italy in the final hurdle.
Not just a footballer, the one thing you don’t want to do as a human being is to overthink.
He said: “With Gareth over the years, you can see the steps we are taking as a team on and off the field.
“After the tournament everybody was congratulating me and I was like, ‘What congratulates me for?’
“They were like, ‘No, you had a lovely tournament.’ I was like, ‘That’s not what the team came out to do.’ It was really disappointing.”
Sterling also credits Southgate with uniting the Three Lions squad since he took over as manager five years ago.
England suffered one of their darkest days in major tournament football, when they were kicked out of Euro 2016 by Iceland, ranked 34th in the world and with a population of just 330,000.
England have finished fourth in the 2018 World Cup – their first semi-final appearance at the tournament for 28 years – and this year’s Euro 2020 final.
Southgate’s exciting youth team will be among the top contenders to win the 2022 World Cup in Qatar next year.
Sterling said: “After the Euros in France, the team came out of it with really bad press.
“It was a really tough period in the next few years. The confidence was not there within the team.
“When Gareth came in, he really tried to convince us that yeah, that’s the mark — but how are we going to change that?
“The team has grown as one. We like to do things collectively. One thing about this team is that when you come into the building, we are so integrated.
Southgate said the team’s decision to take a knee before the game to highlight racial injustice was another factor that helped unite the Three Lions ahead of Euro 2020.
Many a times you have faced scenarios that you have never faced before.
He said: “The boys didn’t know how powerful it would be when they went to tournaments, and they wanted to decide on football.
“I wanted to represent the players in the best possible way.”
Southgate also opened up about the racial abuse directed at Sterling and teammates, Danny Rose and Callum Hudson-Odoi, by Montenegro fans in March 2019.
He said that it proved to be an important moment for the England team.
He explained: “A lot of things happened that educated me, including George Floyd.
,[By taking knee] We can send messages.”
As well as being an England hero, Sterling has won three Premier League titles, one FA Cup and four League Cups at City.
He said he credits that success to several mentors in his life, including Southgate.
The player now hopes to extend similar support to youth through his charitable foundation.
In November he unveiled The Raheem Sterling Foundation at his old school, Arch Alwyn Academy in Wembley.
It aims to improve social mobility for youth in London, Manchester and Kingston, Jamaica, where they were born.
Sterling said he feels a “personal connection” to his foundation’s work and said it aims to instill a confidence in children to keep pursuing their dreams.
The star stressed that underprivileged children need to believe that what they say is an invisible barrier they can break.
Get off social media – don’t read anything about yourself.
He said: “If you grew up in a certain area you feel like there are limits you can’t reach.
“I think that was my whole dream or focus when I was building the foundation . . . trying to make people, young individuals understand that that’s the barrier you can break.”
Sterling lived in Jamaica with ten members of his extended family in a three-bed bungalow.
He was just two years old when his father Philip was shot by gangsters.
When his mother moved the family to the UK, he lived in the difficult St Raphael estate in Neasden.
The little boy helped his mother clean the hotel room as she was trying to feed herself.
Sterling recalled how he and his older sister Lakima used to accompany him on early shifts and argue over who cleaned the toilets.
As a reward, Nadine, a trained nurse who now runs a care home, will allow them to choose breakfast from the vending machine using the change in job.
Sterling started his career with local club Queens Park Rangers.
At his academy he was scouted by London side Arsenal, Chelsea and Fulham as well as Liverpool and Manchester City.
Nadine encourages him not to choose a club in the capital so that he can escape the gang culture of London.
He was signed by Liverpool in 2010 and played 95 times before moving to City five years later.
Since then he has played for them 211 times and scored 85 goals.
He has played for England at Under-16, 17, 19 and 21 levels and has now scored 18 goals in 72 senior matches.
Nadine said her son’s success was a “dream come true”.
She added: “Looking at all that she has achieved as a mother, I can say that I am really proud and I am really happy.”
Sterling said that with the success he has now achieved, his younger self would be “gas-very happy”.
And he said it was important for him to “keep in touch” with that little boy who was always “chasing something”.
‘Lions can take the heat to lift the cup in Qatar’
Raheem Sterling believes that England can win the World Cup to be held in Qatar next year.
The 27-year-old, who scored three times while starring in Euro 2020, told BBC Radio 4 that the Three Lions would love nothing more.
He added: “You can see what steps we are taking on and off the field.
“Yes, Euro was a great trip but we were really disappointed.
“We want our hands on a trophy.
“Nothing is more important to me – and boys will agree – nothing is bigger than winning a big tournament for England.
“I don’t think you can beat this for us as players.
“I think we have players at the right ages, who are challenging for the right things and have the mindset to be the best they can be.
“We have an amazing manager here who tries to give us the environment to perform at the highest level.”
The Manchester City ace quipped: “Hopefully that speech will get me a place on the plane.”
The tournament’s controversial start in the Middle East means games must be played in winter to avoid the scorching heat.