It Was All a Dream by Raheem Sterling | The Players&x27 Tribune

    My daughter is a bit cheeky. My mom warned me this was going to happen. around the age of six they start to develop a little attitude, you know? so the other day, my daughter was running around the house singing a little song. and her dad had just won the league with city. she just got 100 points in the league, actually. does she care? haaaaa! dude, she cares about two scooby-doos over the city of manchester. she’s liverpool through and through, so she’s running the halls, and i swear to god she runs exactly like her dad. puffy chest, arched back, hand flapping a little. she’s running through the halls like raheem sterling, and do you know what she’s singing? mo salah! mo salah! mo salah! running down the wing! salahhhhh la la la la la la la! egyptian king! you can believe that? In cold blood, mate. she is like me when i was a child. like me, I swear. if she doesn’t know you well, she won’t say a word to you. not a word. she has to trust you first. that is something that is ingrained in our family. So can I trust you? Can I tell you my story and will you really listen to me? if you read certain newspapers, you may already think you know me. maybe you think you know my story and what matters to me. but, really? when I was two years old, my father was murdered. that marked my whole life. shortly after, my mother made the decision to leave me and my sister in jamaica and go to england so that she could get her degree and give us a better life. For a few years we lived with our grandmother in Kingston, and I remember seeing the other children with their mothers and feeling really jealous. I didn’t fully understand what my mother was doing for us. he only knew that she was gone. my grandmother was amazing, but everyone loves her mother at that age. Thank God I had soccer. I remember when it used to rain, all the kids would run outside and play football in the puddles, just splashing around, having a good time. that’s the image that flashes in my mind when i think of jamaica’s atmosphere. when it rains, no one hides inside. just go out and enjoy it. The other thing I remember is asking my grandmother for money to go buy a grapefruit ice cream.

    listen, the rest of the world needs to eat grapefruit. You really don’t know what you’re missing. For some reason, I have never seen it in England. but it’s the best there is. this guy used to have a little store outside his house, so you’d come running in after playing soccer all day on the street and you’d knock on the door and then his head would literally come out of this little window, like, “oi, what you need?” That’s Jamaica, man. people just rush in, trying to do the best they can with the circumstances they’ve been faced with. you could get everything from rice to ice cream in his little shop. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my mother was struggling in her own way, trying to make a better life for us. When she was five years old, we moved to London to be with her, and it was a difficult time because the culture was very different from what I was used to and we didn’t have a lot of money. my mom always made sure we had what we needed, but let’s just say it wasn’t the suite life of zack & Cody, do you know what I mean? my mother worked as a cleaner in some hotels to earn extra money to pay her title. i will never forget waking up to her at five in the morning before school and helping her clean the bathrooms at the hotel in stonebridge. she would be arguing with my sister, like, “no! No! you have the bathrooms this time. I have the sheets.”

    The only good thing was that my mom let us pick what we wanted from the vending machine when we were done. so you know she went straight to the reward bar every time. My family, we were very close. we had to be all we had was us, you know? she was always breaking everything in the house, so she was like, “mom! breast! I can leave? I can leave?” and she always said, “you can go out, but don’t leave the house”. that used to be like her little jedi mind trick on me. that’s a classic mom joke.

    but actually I feel a bit bad remembering it, because when I started going to elementary school I was very naughty. I was probably driving my mother crazy. It wasn’t that it was bad bad, he just didn’t want to listen. I didn’t want to sit still and listen to what the teacher was saying, man! What are we talking about today, subtraction? we go. not have that. I’d be looking at the clock dreaming of rest time. eat some food, then head straight outside. running through the mud, pretending i’m ronaldinho. that’s all that mattered to me. I was so naughty that I got kicked out of elementary school. Well, actually, that’s not entirely true. Technically, they didn’t kick me out. they simply told my mom that she needed to be in a more attentive environment. They put your man in a small classroom with six children and three teachers! it is not a joke. there was nowhere to hide. the worst part was the bus that picked us up and dropped us off everyday. so I’ll never forget, I was on the bus one day, looking out the window, and I saw all these other girls and boys walking to school by themselves, laughing. and that really hit me, and I thought, I want to do that. I want to be like everyone else. there is nothing wrong with me. I’m just quiet. I just didn’t like listening to anyone but my mother. that was my problem. so I was on my best behavior right away, and after about a year, I went back to the big school. But if I really think about it, the moment my life changed was when I met a guy named Clive Ellington. he used to mentor kids in our neighborhood who didn’t have his parents near him. on weekends he would take us on little trips around london and show us a different side of life. sometimes we just went to play pool. basically, anything that was not our day to day. he really cared about us. so one day he sat me down and said, “raheem, what do you love to do?” Simple, simple question, right? but I never really thought of it that way. at that time, he was just playing soccer in the street, riding a bike with my friends, he was a kid. I told him: “I love to play football”. He said, “well, I have a little Sunday league team.” why don’t you come out and play with us?” and that was it. That moment changed my life. From that day on, it was football, football, football. obsessed. totally obsessed. when i was 10 or 11 years old, some big clubs in london were looking for me. fulham loved me. Arsenal wanted me. and when the armory wants you, of course you think you have to go there. biggest club in london, you know? so I’m running and telling my teammates: “I’m going to the arsenal!”, but my mother is a true warrior. she knows how to do it in this world. she’s probably the most streetwise person I know. She sat me down one day and said, “Look, I love you. but I don’t feel like you should go to the arsenal.” I said, “huh?” she said: “if you go there, there will be 50 players who are as good as you. you’ll just be a number. you have to go somewhere where you can make your way.” she convinced me to go to qpr, and it was probably the best decision i ever made. in qpr, they didn’t let me slip. but it was quite hard for my family, because my mom never let me go to training alone. and she always had to work, so my sister had to drive me to heathrow. three buses. 18 to 182 to 140. the red double deckers with the 80s blue wool vibe on the seats. spent years on it. we would leave at 3:15 and arrive home at 11 p.m. each. unique. day. she would sit upstairs in the little cafe and relax until I was done with the training. imagine being 17 and doing that for your little brother. and I never heard her say, “no, I don’t want to take it.” At the time, I didn’t understand how much she was sacrificing herself. she and my mom brought me here. My whole family played an important role in my life. Without them, you wouldn’t even know me. And you know what crazy is? I grew up in the shadow of my dream. literally. i saw the new wembley stadium rise up from my back garden. One day, I went outside and I saw this huge arch in the sky. it towered over the housing estates like a mountain. i used to putt on this green right next to my house, and i could take a shot at archery and then turn around to celebrate and wembley arch would be literally right above my head. it was as if you were there. I was really like, I can play there. I can do it.

    Not everyone believed. I had a teacher when I was 14 and, to be fair, I was probably playing around, not really listening. so she said, “rahim! what’s wrong with you? Do you think soccer is going to be your ultimate goal? Do you know how many millions of children want to be soccer players? and I thought, okay, that’s fair, I’ve heard those odds before, but she then she said, “what makes you so special?” and that line really stuck with me. in my head, I literally said, “ehhhh? what makes me so special? okay.! we’ll see”. two months later i was called up to the england under-16s and scored twice against northern ireland. everything was on tv and everything. that was a great moment for me. I went back to school on Monday and suddenly that teacher was my best friend in the world. it’s funny how that works. but the real turning point came when he was 15 years old. Liverpool loved me, but I was three hours from home. and I will never forget to sit my mother down and tell her that she wanted to go. I love all my friends in my neighborhood. They are still my best friends in the world. but at the time, there was a lot of crime and stabbings, and i felt liverpool was an opportunity for me to leave and just focus on football.

    In my head, I was like, ok, this is it. my mother sacrificed her life to bring me here. my sister sacrificed her life to bring me here. I’m here. we go. For two years, I became a ghost. you can ask my friends. when we had a day off, i would go back to london on the train for a day to see my mum, and then go back to liverpool. I was closed off from the world. just building myself as a footballer. the club had me living with this older couple. they were over 70 years old and really treated me like their own grandson. Every morning, I would come downstairs and they had a bacon waiting for me. It was incredible. beautiful garden in the back. all these flowers, trees. it was like a different world. however, my mother still called me every morning. “rahim! did you say your prayers today? have you given thanks for waking up today?” I say, “mom! yes, I have a mom!” that was probably the most important moment of my life. My whole mission was to get a proper contract so my mom and sister wouldn’t have to stress anymore. The day I bought my mother a house was probably the happiest day I have ever felt. I can remember when I was a kid, there were like three or four times when I was on the bus home from practice and my mom texted me a new address and she was like, “This is where we live now.” there was a two-year period where we were moving all the time because we couldn’t pay our rent. At the time, I hardly thought about it. it was just normal for me. but now I understand what it must have been like for her, going through that struggle. You know… it’s sad that I even have to say this, but I’m going to say it anyway. there’s a perception in certain parts of the media that I love bling. I love diamonds I love to show off. I really don’t understand where that comes from. especially when I bought my mother a house, it was amazing what some people were writing. I think it’s very sad that people do that. they hate what they don’t even know. A few years ago, I would let it get to me. I would be saying to my mother, “why do you bother me?”, but now, as long as my mother, my sister and my children are not stressed, I’m fine. If people want to write about my mom’s bathroom in her house, all I have to tell them is that 15 years ago, we were cleaning bathrooms in stonebridge and getting breakfast out of the vending machine. If anyone deserves to be happy, it’s my mother. She came to this country with nothing and went through school cleaning toilets and changing sheets, and now she’s the headmistress of a nursing home and her son plays for England.

    You know what’s so amazing to me? I was called up for England at the age of 17. the first time i was able to play at wembley was in a world cup qualifier against ukraine, and the most surreal part was sitting on the bus on the way to the stadium, looking out the window. as we drove down the slipway, thinking to myself…that’s the house my friend used to live in. that’s the parking lot where we used to skate. that’s the corner where we used to try to talk to the girls. that is the green where I used to dream that all this would happen. 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 bring you down. I’m telling you right now… England is still a place where a naughty boy who comes from nowhere can live out his dream.

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