To play in a European Final is a moment most players can only dream of. For England and Italy on Sunday, that dream will become a reality as they walk out onto the Wembley pitch for the Euro 2020 Final. It’ll be the important moment of most of these players’ careers, but none more so than Raheem Sterling.
Playing football on the streets of Brent, it’s not hard to miss Wembley’s iconic arch. It casts a shadow over the streets below while kids below are playing pick-up games, dreaming of one day playing at the national stadium. Raheem Sterling was that kid once. Sterling has often spoken about his upbringing, there’s even a brilliant piece by the man himself on The Players’ Tribune. His story is not mine to tell though, so I won’t, but what I can do is honor the man himself.
For years, Sterling has found his name in the headlines. When his performances on the pitch have been nothing short of spectacular, the media in England still find a way to try to tear him down. The list is endless, from being scapegoated during England’s 2015 Euros exit, to being booed around the country after leaving Liverpool, to ridiculous and racially charged headlines being written about him.
His name has been dragged through the mud countless times throughout the media, yet Sterling has always persevered. At just 26 years old, he is still trying to earn the plaudits he has deserved for so long. Prior to this summer’s tournament, people called for him to be on the bench, despite being one of England’s most consistent performers. At Euro 2020, he has repaid the faith shown in him by Gareth Southgate.
Sterling has dragged England through difficult periods, scoring 3 goals at the tournament so far and performing the best we have ever seen him. It’s a testament to his character, putting an entire nation on his shoulders despite never receiving the love he truly deserves in return. His work on and off the pitch has been nothing short of incredible and despite the desperate attempts to tear him down, he doesn’t waver.
For Raheem Sterling, that famous Wembley arch that once served as a symbol, now serves as a reminder. A reminder that the boy from Brent has achieved his dream. Playing in front of 60,000 fans, wearing the England shirt, aiming to lift his country’s first trophy in 55 years.
Sunday’s final is a special one for everyone, but none more than Raheem Sterling. Every kid dreams of playing at Wembley, but for the man who saw Wembley as his back garden, this is beyond a dream. No matter what the result is and no matter what the headlines are, Raheem Sterling is the face of this England team.
He represents every kid from Brent, boroughs around London and all over England who hope to realize a dream. For a country that has long suffered agonizingly in major tournaments, Raheem Sterling has helped a country fall back in love with its football team. I hope he receives the flowers he so deserves, because they have been long overdue. Here’s to you, Raheem Sterling.
By: Harry Harris / @Harry8_
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Eddie Keogh – The FA