Raheem Sterling Q&A: Racism, Premier League’s return and life in lockdown

Manchester City host Arsenal (20:15 BST) when the Premier League resumes on Wednesday night

The Premier League is back on Wednesday night with Manchester City one of the four teams to take to the pitch for the first time since football was suspended because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Pep Guardiola’s side host Arsenal (20:15 BST) after Aston Villa play Sheffield United and, before the top flight’s return, ex-Manchester City defender Micah Richards caught up with Raheem Sterling on BBC Radio 5 live to get the City and England forward’s thoughts on what it will be like playing again after three months without football.

Following the recent Black Lives Matter protests, sparked by the death of George Floyd in the US, Sterling also talks about racism and how it is important to keep having conversations about the issue, particularly in football.

Micah Richards: It is 100 days since you last kicked a ball in Premier League – how crazy is that?

Raheem Sterling: It’s been weird but it’s been a moment to cherish with the family. The first couple of weeks were kind of like a holiday, being able to spend time with the kids at home and help the missus out, because we’re always away. But towards the end I was screaming ‘get me out of there’.

Manchester City’s last Premier League game before the season’s suspension was the 2-0 defeat by Manchester United on 8 March

MR: Did you think about how difficult it would be to play again amid the pandemic?

RS: I didn’t think we were going to return. But we’re slowly getting back to our normal routine and football is back. Hopefully we can put smiles on people’s faces.

MR: Does it feel that a change on racial equality is a possibility this time around?

RS: I feel like we’re getting close to where we want to be. The protests have shown everyone, not just black people, but the whole country, the whole world, that people are tired. People are tired of the hope they don’t have.

Raheem Sterling: “The only disease right now is the racism that we’re fighting”

If I see my mum struggling and my neighbour struggling as a 12-year-old – what hope does that give you to try to improve yourself?

You fall into the system trap and this is what happens to a lot of our youths. You have a postcode behind your name and a lot of people don’t want to associate with you. That’s happened to me. This is something I’m trying to change and it’s something I’m not trying to just sit on the internet and post about, not really seeing anything happen. We have to talk to the right people to get this change and it’s something I’m working on in the background.

Players’ names will be replaced on the back of their shirts with ‘Black Lives Matter’ for the first 12 matches of the restarted season. Players who choose to ‘take a knee’ before or during matches will also be supported by the Premier League

MR: I feel they put too much onus on you to talk about it. You are not going to have all the answers, you can only talk from your experience. Do you feel too much pressure to talk about it?

RS: I wouldn’t say too much pressure. It’s something where I don’t want to do too much talking. I would rather have a meeting with the Premier League, a meeting with Fifa, bring stuff to them and not just try to do this on my own – because, as you said, I don’t have all the answers. I’m a football player, but I have to use my platform at the same time to open these conversations so we can have change.

Manchester City will host Arsenal on Wednesday night without fans inside the stadium. All remaining Premier League games will be played behind closed doors because of the coronavirus pandemic

MR: It must be exciting the Premier League being back – but how does it feel when you know Liverpool are so far ahead?

RS: When you get that first Premier League trophy you want to win it the next year and the year after that – you want to be greedy. They’ve been great this year and we haven’t been quite up to the level that we know we can be. We’ve got to keep pushing to try and finish second and we’ve got the FA Cup and Champions League. That’s all the motivation you need – to try and finish the season with two more trophies.