Raheem Sterling’s treatment is unfair and another tabloid conspiracy to derail England’s chances

The ridiculous and over sensitive criticism of Raheem Sterling’s tattoo of an M16 assault rifle is a classic manoeuvre by the UK media to scupper England’s chances at the World Cup in Russia and rubbish the name of one of their better player’s.

Sterling, who has joined up with the majority of Gareth Southgate’s squad before England play their first warm-up game against Nigeria at Wembley, has been splashed across the front pages of The Sun and other newspapers for having a tattoo depicting an M16 assault rifle on his calf.

The player has explained that the symbol had been chosen as a tribute to his father, who was shot dead in Jamaica when Sterling was just two years old. Yet for some people, there is no sympathy and Sterling is being singled out as he has been accused of “glamorising” gun violence, urged to apologise to “the families of gun victims” and even had people calling for him to be dropped from the England World Cup squad altogether. People are looking for any reason they can to be upset or outraged these days, but how can we tell people how they should react to grief.

In his own statement he said he was attempting to use a tragic event in his own personal life as a catalyst for the career he has now made for himself. Remove the fact that he is a footballer and you’ll find someone who is still a young man who tragically lost his father at a very young age and the tattoo is a symbol of something that is very important to him.

And as he has said, the tattoo isn’t even finished yet. Who knows if he might surround the rifle with flowers, or some words poignant to the death of his father. It might become a statement against violence – only he will know.

What this has become is another despicable character assassination of one of England’s best player’s, one we’ve seen before ahead of major tournaments. Remember Gazza, Beckham and Rooney and the rubbish they had to put up with from the UK tabloids!?

It’s not the first time Sterling has been singled out either – often he can’t win. One day he is being lambasted for being tight-fisted after buying clothes from Primark, eating pasties at Greggs or taking an £80 easyJet trip, despite earning £200,000 a week. The next day he is criticised for his fleet of cars or for using a private jet to take him on two holidays in a week.

Other absurd stories he has been criticised over include being called a ‘love rat’ even though he proposed to his long-term girlfriend, a report about being ‘tired’ at a party at 3am, a story for buying his mother a sink despite England failing to win the World Cup, and a headline for driving a ‘Filthy 50K Mercedes’.

But where are the positive stories about Sterling who, aged 20, became the most expensive British player in history to sign between two English clubs when he moved to Manchester City from Liverpool. A player who already has 37 international caps at 23 years old; who has been rejuvenated under Pep Guardiola and played a vital part in helping Manchester City to win the Premier League whilst racking up 100 points for the first time ever.

He may well regret his tattoo in 20-30 years, but what 23-year-old won’t have done something they may or may not regret in the years to come. Get off his back and support someone who has been through a lot and is saying that the killing of his father has made him the man he is today; triumphing over adversity.

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