Sunday 21 July 2019

Maitland-Niles: Sterling is brave to speak out about abuse

Raheem Sterling. Photo: Getty
Raheem Sterling. Photo: Getty

Sam Dean

Arsenal midfielder Ainsley Maitland-Niles has called on players and clubs to support Raheem Sterling in his stand against racism, saying that he experienced racial abuse when he was just 12 years old.

Maitland-Niles, 21, praised Sterling's "bravery" for speaking out about racism, following the abuse he received playing for Manchester City at Stamford Bridge last week.

Maitland-Niles added that it "hurts" for him to talk about the "disgusting" racist abuse he experienced as a 12-year-old playing for Arsenal on a trip to Germany.

"It was pretty much similar to what Raheem got, to be honest," Maitland-Niles said.

"I went out to pick up the ball for a throw-in and there was a bit of racial abuse behind me. What can I do? I just got on with the game, as he did.

"It hurts me to talk about it. It hurts to think about it. But I think that's why it's so important that we need to get rid of it from the game.

"It's not just footballers who need to be on board with it. It's everyone else: the media and the staff as well."

Maitland-Niles reported the incident but said nothing was done in response.

"At the time, I just spoke to my dad about it and he gave me the heads up and showed me a few things about racism before my time, just as there still is in the game now," he said.

"I really do credit Raheem for coming out and standing up for himself and other players and speaking about it."

Asked if Sterling's statement, in which the City forward said some sections of the media were helping to "fuel racism", could be a defining moment in the fight against racism, Maitland-Niles said: "I really hope so. Raheem is a good, brave lad for doing it and I just hope more people put their ear towards him and have some sympathy for him, because it's not the first time it's happened and we just want it to be the last."

Maitland-Niles is expected to start in Arsenal's Europa League meeting with Qarabag tonight. Laurent Koscielny, the club captain, will make his first appearance since rupturing his Achilles in May.

Arsenal are already assured of their place in the knockout stages having won four of their five Group E games to date.

Arsenal v Qarabag, Live, BT Sport 2, 8.0

Telegraph.co.uk

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