Glass talks to footballer Raheem Sterling about life on and off the pitch

The world at his feet – Glass talks to footballer Raheem Sterling, the Manchester City player about life on and off the pitch

SINCE his early childhood days spent having kickabouts in Jamaica, to his move to London at five years old where he watched from his garden the new Wembley Stadium being constructed, to his signing for Liverpool at the young age of 15, and then debuting for England at merely 17, Raheem Sterling, born on December 8, 1994, comes alive with the ball at his feet. Building his strength as a winger and attacking midfielder for Manchester City since 2015, already this season Sterling has scored seven times, playing arguably the best football of his career. Match after match, Sterling has delivered impressive, persistent and important performances for his team, and has become well known for his pace, dribbling skills, and his finishing ability.

Raheem Sterling. Photograph: Adam Slama

Off the pitch, Sterling keeps family and his modest beginnings at the forefront of his mind. Staying grounded and helping those who care for him, he says, helps him stay happy both on and off the field. His positive attitude is contagious and recently played its part in the most successful England World Cup performance since 1990, a feat which has been attributed partly to the dynamic and spirit within the group of players.

Yet his journey into football has been far from easy. Chronicling the death of his father and the sacrifices made by his mother and sister to allow him to train for football, when speaking about his achievements, Sterling shows enormous gratitude to the experiences and people that have shaped him. Taking things in his stride, at just 24 years old, Sterling is now one of the most successful British football players currently playing the game, and is finally getting the credit he has been long overdue. Glass spoke to him to find out more about his thoughts on the influential position he now holds in football, fashion and society as a whole.

To kick things off … I must know, in the opening 2014 World Cup game against Italy did you believe, like the rest of us watching did, that you had scored? What was going through your head?
I was like, what is going on! Obviously for half a second I thought it had gone in and then I realised that the ball had bounced on the outside of the net, and it was back to focus after that. But yeah for half a second I did, I did think it was in.

You’ve pinpointed your signing at 15 years old, and consequent move to Liverpool as the real turning point in your career. How difficult was it to make the decision to move away from home so young?
I don’t think really it was that much of a difficult decision. Obviously I had the people I had around me that advised me, like my agent Aidy and my mum. We all thought it would do a world of good for me to have a fresh start and challenge myself. At the time I was 15 and I was trying to enter England in the 16-18s and you know competing with the best of my age, competing with who I thought was the best. So I had to think about the now but the future as well … I thought it would bring the best out of me.

Thinking back to that time, what advice would you give to your 15-year-old self?
Just go, enjoy it and be yourself and not really listen to other people along the way. Just continue to be yourself and you’ll get where you want to be.

How does it feel to have been part of the most successful England World Cup performance since 1990? There was a lot of talk about this year’s success being down to the dynamic of the team off the pitch as well as on it. Would you agree?
Yeah, I would say it was a really amazing achievement, but also a disappointing one at the same time. Because in ourselves, and in my personal self, I think we could have gone on to do more, we had the game in our hands and then it slipped through our hands. So it was disappointing, but also such an achievement because we got to the semi-final, which we haven’t been able to do in quite some years.

Raheem Sterling. Photograph: Adam Slama

The growing appetite for football in China as well as Manchester City’s development of grassroots football in the country has seen more and more Manchester City support clubs popping up across Asia, I was wondering if when travelling you noticed this change in the fan base at all?
Yes to be fair, you see quite big groups actually, I don’t know if they come over for a weekend or something like that, but there is quite a massive fanbase from Asia. It’s great to see some Asian fans there.

What with the football shirt frenzy in streetwear fashion trends at the moment, do you think footballers, yourself included, are fashion icons?
I would say I am because I have some people who follow me in football – I don’t want to name any names but you’ll know who they are – that follow my style. Yes footballers are icons and trendsetters but they are also copycats a lot of the time, and some of my friends know who they are (laughs).

Last year Manchester City collaborated with DSquared2 to design a new club suit, as someone who appreciates style did you enjoy having an input in the creative process?
Yes, it was really enjoyable. Especially when going to games not just in a tracksuit, you know typical football kit. It was really nice just being able to go and look fresh as well. It was good and hopefully we can continue doing more stuff with the club.

Do you ever wonder what you’d be doing as a career if you were not playing football?
To be honest from a young age, football has been my only thing that I banked myself on and I put so much effort into it so I wasn’t really thinking of anything else. It just shows that anything can pay off when you put your mind to it. Yes, there were other things that I really liked doing but I never really saw myself doing it in the future.

What about now, would you consider fashion now?
Oh now, yes! Yes I could put a few threads together.

Raheem Sterling. Photograph: Adam Slama

When are you at your happiest?
Kingston, Jamaica. Sun, food, beach, chilling, Bob Marley in the background, I couldn’t be happier when my batteries are recharging and I can really feel my energy coming back. It literally feels like I am recharging my batteries, that’s when I feel at my most, when I can feel my recovery. That’s a massive part for me, being by a beach in Kingston somewhere just listening to the music, the people, you know and the food, that’s the most important thing, the food.

How has fatherhood influenced your work ethic?
I think massively to be fair, especially in case of being much more mature, responsibilities, things like that. It turns you down a bit, turns you down a lot, because you know you have responsibilities and you know you can’t be doing stuff that you were doing once upon a time.

Thinking about the world we live in today, do you feel, as an influential sportsman, a sense of responsibility to represent a new form of masculinity? I ask because your piece on The Players Tribune is an inspiring testament to men sharing their feelings.
I’m one to be fair, I’m about sharing so that stuff that has happened to me could help someone else as well. There was a time when I tried to hold stuff back but I know now that there is a 15-year-old boy just like Raheem, or a girl just like Raheem that will go through these things and hopefully hearing these things from me and not keeping it to myself will help. I’d like to know I could have helped someone else that is going through something similar. Not everyone is the same but I want to help them along their journey, that’s what I want to do. I always think of the kids from the next generation, you know the kids from London or Manchester or wherever they’re from.


 Raheem Sterling. Photograph: Adam Slama

You’ve scored 18 goals in England’s Premier League title triumph last season, a figure succeeded only by one other footballer, this week you’ve agreed another five-year deal with Manchester City, and outside of work you’ve got two gorgeous children and a fiancé who love you dearly, among this sea of success I wonder what you believe has been your greatest achievement in life so far?
My greatest achievement in life so far is probably being able to be the person in my family to help them. Not just money wise, but also you know, I think they look at me now – my older sister especially, she looks at me and is always asking me for advice, and things like that makes me very thankful. Also things like being able to help my mum get her own place was something massive for me, seeing how much she’s given for us: being able to give back that small bit – even though it is just money – I’m just grateful I can make her happy and smile sometimes.

Finally, what are you most excited for in the future?
To be honest, to be able to keep improving as a football player. I just feel like I’m getting into a mode where I’m just happy with everything outside of football and that allows me to be happy on the field too. I’m developing under a wonderful manager – a manager that helps everyone – and the team is evolving and I feel like I’m evolving now. I’m going to be 24 soon and I feel like I’m in a place where I can reach where I want to reach. And I keep saying this, but I think I’m going to get to where I want to get to and I’m sure that will happen sometime soon.

by Lily Rimmer

From the Glass Archive – Glass Man, Winter issue 2018

To make sure you never miss a copy of Glass Man, subscribe here

Photographer: Adam Slama
Styling: Kusi Kubi
Grooming: Charlene Williams
Photography Assistants: Marco Pereira, Krostof S

Talent: Raheem Sterling

Look One

All Clothing: Stella McCartney

Look Two

Shirt. shorts: FENDI
Shoes: NIKE

Look Three

All Clothing and Accessories: Alexander McQueen

Look Four

All Clothing: DSQUARED2

By Lily Rimmer