England and Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling has revealed his remarkable journey from helping his mother clean toilets to becoming one of the most expensive Englishmen of all time.
Writing for The Players' Tribune, Sterling describes the sacrifices made by his mother to give his family the best experience.
“When I was two years old, my father was murdered. That shaped my entire life. Not long after that, my mum made the decision to leave me and my sister in Jamaica and go to England, so she could get her degree and give us a better life.
“I didn’t realise it at the time, but my mum was hustling in her own way, trying to make a better life for us. When I was five years old, we moved to London to be with her, and that was kind of a tough time because the culture was very different from what I was used to and we didn’t have much money.
“My mum was working as a cleaner at some hotels to make extra money, so she could pay for her degree. I’ll never forget waking up at five in the morning before school and helping her clean the toilets at the hotel in Stonebridge.”
At 11-years-old, Sterling was showing signs of promise and signed with Queens Park Rangers – turning down an offer from Arsenal in the process.
“At QPR, they didn’t let me slip up. But it was quite hard for my family, because my mum would never let me go to training alone. And she always had to work, so my sister would have to take me all the way out to Heathrow.
“Imagine being 17 years old and doing that for your little brother. And I never once heard her say, “Nah, I don’t wanna take him".
“At the time, I didn’t understand how much she was sacrificing. Her and my mum got me here. My whole family played a massive part in my life. Without them, you wouldn’t even know me.”
Fast forward four years and Sterling was being courted by Liverpool – after convincing his mother, he left London to join the Reds in a bid to secure a top-flight contract.
“My whole mission was to get a proper contract so that my mother and sister didn’t have to stress anymore. The day that I bought my mum a house, that was probably the happiest I’ve ever been.
“There was a two-year period where we were moving all the time, because we couldn’t afford the rent. At the time, I barely thought about it. It was just normal to me. But now I understand what it must have been like for her, going through that struggle.”
Sterling moved from Liverpool to Manchester City in 2015 and played a key role in their record-breaking 2017/18 Premier League season, scoring 18 goals and making 12 assists.
He is considered an important member of Gareth Southgate’s World Cup squad. But, the 23-year-old has often been criticised in the press – from buying his mother a “blinging house” to most recently having a tattoo of an M16 assault rifle.
“If people want to write about my mum’s bathroom in her house, all I have to tell you is that 15 years ago, we were cleaning toilets in Stonebridge and getting breakfast out of the vending machine. If anybody deserves to be happy, it’s my mum. She came to this country with nothing and put herself through school cleaning bathrooms and changing bed sheets, and now she’s the director of a nursing home.
"And her son plays for England.
“If you grew up the same way I grew up, don’t listen to what certain tabloids want to tell you. They just want to steal your joy. They just want to pull you down.
“I’m telling you right now… England is still a place where a naughty boy who comes from nothing can live his dream.”