Pep Guardiola has hailed Raheem Sterling as an “incredible person” after the Manchester City and England winger spoke out amid allegations he was subjected to racist abuse.
Sterling issued a statement via his Instagram account on Sunday, in which he drew contrasts between media coverage of black and white footballers in the UK – a disparity he believes “helps fuel racism and aggressive behaviour”.
The post came a day after Sterling was targeted by Chelsea fans during City’s 2-0 Premier League defeat at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea suspended four people from attending their matches pending an investigation, with the club and the Metropolitan Police launching investigations into whether the England international was racially abused by supporters.
Sterling’s public stance has won widespread support and, speaking alongside Leroy Sane ahead of his team’s Champions League match against Hoffenheim at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday, Guardiola spoke warmly and passionately of the 24-year-old’s human qualities in the midst of a bleak situation.
“Leroy said it perfectly, he is an incredible person. Raheem is an incredible human being,” the City manager said.
“It’s tough to understand today what happened years ago, for the whole history for the black people.
“You have to protect how equal we are, all together. It’s tough to understand in the 21st century, we are still in that position – not to accept the diversity that helps us to be better.
“That is why sport is amazing. You live with different people. My kids go to school with Indian people, with black people, with people from everywhere.
“We have to defend and we have to protect them [those who are abused].”