The Boy from Maverley: Love and pride in Jamaica as Raheem Sterling lights up the Euros

·7-min read
England v Germany – UEFA Euro 2020 – Round of 16 – Wembley Stadium (PA Wire)
England v Germany – UEFA Euro 2020 – Round of 16 – Wembley Stadium (PA Wire)

Raheem Sterling has been England’s player of Euro 2020 so far with three goals in four matches, including the all-important opening goal in their 2-0 victory against Germany on Tuesday.

As the team travels to Rome to face Ukraine in the quarter-finals on Saturday, it is Sterling who is the standout star.

The 26 year old is widely hailed as the Boy from Brent - a hashtag he has used himself in a celebratory tweet - but he is also the Boy from Maverley.

Born in the Jamaican capital, Kingston, Sterling is also proud of his birthplace and has legions of supporters across the island and wider diaspora, rooting for his success and exceedingly chuffed with his sporting accomplishments.

Hailing from Maverley, an impoverished Kingston district once fraught with violence, the footballer migrated to England at the age of five, along with his mother Nadine Clarke and settled in Neasden, north-west London, where he began to play football before his ascension to fame.

His father, Phillip Slater, was gunned down in the neighbouring district of Waterhouse, Kingston, in 1996 after being wrongly caught up in a gang turf war. Sterling was just two years old at the time.

Raheem Sterling of England is interviewed at St George's Park (Getty)
Raheem Sterling of England is interviewed at St George's Park (Getty)

Dalton Walters, 28, lives in the same area where Sterling was raised and told The Independent: “Even though Sterling plays for England - to me, he represents our community, every Jamaican, no matter whereabouts in the world they are. What I like about him is he’s never forgotten where he’s from - Jamaica - and has never sold out either. We are proud of him; Sterling is our baller, our general.”

Laughing, Mr Walters added: “So England needs to remember that too!”

When approached and asked whether they supported Sterling, numerous residents across Clarendon and Kingston responded favourably even though many were not actively following the tournament itself.

“He’s one of us; that’s our boy,” one woman said.

Nathaniel Peat, Chair of Jamaicans Inspired UK and elected Global Jamaica Diaspora Council Representative for UK south, told The Independent: “Raheem has done every Black Caribbean living in the UK and the wider diaspora so proud, knowing that he hails from the small island of Jamaica, he exemplifies the talent of our nation and inspires so many young people and adults alike.

“He is a role model for many aspiring young black footballers in the UK and, despite the racial negatives associated with Black and Asian players in football, he shows that excellence can shine beyond those perceptions.

“It’s a great achievement from a child that lost his dad to gun crime. He rose above it and turned his pain into the passion of playing football that is now helping England move closer towards victory.”

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As well as buying a home in Jamaica in 2018, the father-of-two has supported various local initiatives in support of sports facilities – including Maverley Hughenden Football Club’s home ground.

Last year, Sterling gifted students of his former school, Maverley Primary and Junior High, with a pair of Clarks Originals shoes through his collaboration with the renowned brand. One year on and some students were proudly wearing their Wallabees for graduation yesterday.

A teacher addressing students of the school (Maverley Primary and Junior High, School)
A teacher addressing students of the school (Maverley Primary and Junior High, School)

Acting Vice Principal Kerry Taffe told The Independent that the footballer is “considered to be a big part of the Maverley family” and students and teachers, alike, are cheering him on for the Euro 2020 tournament; the teachers’ lounge has been abuzz with discussions praising the sports star, she added.

“I am rooting for Raheem because not only is he Jamaican but he has made himself an integral part of our school community through his significant partnership with us,” she said.

“Most of our students are from the local community and are inspired by his success. Before the pandemic started we had a successful football school team; most of them desire to become professional footballers based on his demonstrated success.”

I’m super proud as a fellow Jamaican and I love seeing him on those big stages

Christopher Martin, reggae singer

The father-of-two maintains close personal ties to the island too, travelling there frequently to see family members and friends; some of his associates include Olympian Usain Bolt and reggae singer Christopher Martin.

Mr Martin, whose best-known songs include ‘Big Deal’, ‘Paper Loving’ and ‘Cheater’s Prayer’, is full of praise for Sterling whom he describes as friend, and said he’s the reason for England’s current success in the tournament.

“Raheem is a fantastic baller who understands the game and knows how to make the runs. He’s the boss right now and given a magnificent performance in the tournament so far; he’s the reason England is in the quarter finals right now and I love that the coach, Mr Southgate, always believes in him and he always delivers for the coach and for England,

“I’m super proud as a fellow Jamaican and I love seeing him on those big stages.”

Christopher Martin (Supplied)
Christopher Martin (Supplied)

The singer added though that Sterling doesn’t get the recognition he deserves for his trailblazing talent.

Despite the football ace scoring the first of two goals in the match against Germany, with the other scored by team captain Harry Kane, the majority of mainstream newspapers splashed on images of Kane the following day.

This, coupled with the fact that Sterling has been instrumental in England’s progression to the quarter finals, has sparked criticism from Black football fans, far and wide, who argue that this is racially discriminatory.

Indeed Mr Martin said: “Any English fan who loves football, no matter your colour, should be outraged. Sterling is the one who’s been making the plays, scoring the goals, and I know it’s a team sport but if you don’t have the person to put the ball in the back of the net then you can’t win and sterling has been doing that.

“Kane’s a talented baller too but he scored one goal and he’s been getting more praise and accolades than Sterling - and we don’t rate that. Britain needs to address this and do the right thing; it isn’t fair.”

Karen Madden, a prominent TV and radio anchor in Jamaica, tweeted: “See why I could never support England. Raheem carry this bug side to quarters & every major newspaper has Kane on the cover. Sick ah dem!”

Christopher ‘Johnny’ Daley, an award-winning comedian and creative entrepreneur, told The Independent: “Sterling is Black. Born in Jamaica. Of course he won’t get the respect and admiration he truly deserves from majority of the England press and maybe by extension a large swathes of the English public.

Christopher Daley (Supplied)
Christopher Daley (Supplied)

“No need to skirt around it when recent events have proven that racism and discrimination are all alive and well globally and it doesn’t matter how much money you have or how good a footballer you are, some people can only see you through the lens they have been conditioned to look through. Some.”

Mr Daley, an iconic figure in the Jamaican entertainment arena, went on to say: “Sterling represents the best of what we can become. I am a proud City fanatic but even more proud as a Jamaican to see him excel at the highest levels. When Jamaicans get an opportunity to shine we ultimately do.”

Sterling has grown as a player and person over the last couple of years, with his work on racial equality in sport earning him an MBE and a place as one of the 100 most influential black Britons in 2020 and 2021.

Despite his age, he is considered one of the senior members of the squad and provides leadership by example, while at his club he is surrounded by an array of world-class stars. The likes of England team-mates Bukayo Saka, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford have cited Sterling as a role model within the England camp.

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