Salmon's Soapbox: Sterling can't be fall-guy for the ills of our society
Craig Salmon discusses the fall-out of England World Cup star Raheem Sterling's controversial tattoo of a rifle on his right calfIn the Press box at White Hart Lane a good few years ago, I watched in admiration as Robbie Keane scored a brilliant hat-trick for Tottenham Hotspur.
Each time the Irish striker found the back of the net he ran towards his adoring fans, then proceeded to do a forward topple before showering the terraces with a hail of pretend bullets.
His trademark ‘gun finger’ celebration is arguably the abiding memory of the now-retired former centre-forward’s brilliant career, which took in spells at clubs like Inter Milan, Liverpool and Leeds United, among others. At the time I did not bat an eyelid at Keane’s ‘gun-toting’ celebrations and I don’t ever remember him being criticised or slammed at any point during his career for glamorising guns, death or gang culture.
It is why I feel the criticism of Manchester City and England star Raheem Sterling’s decision to have a gun tattooed on his right calf is a little unjust.
Admittedly, I agree it is not the smartest nor wisest move – especially with a World Cup a fortnight away and the propensity for the actions of the England squad to come under the most intense amount of scrutiny. However, Sterling has become an easy target for criticism over his short career. Opposing fans around the Premier League have singled him out during games –“You let your country down” – in reference to England’s abject showing at Euro 2016.
The City forward has also been long-time pigeon-holed as representing everything which is wrong with the modern game – the archetypal greedy footballer, who forced a move from Liverpool to his current club back in 2015 for more money.
In many ways, Sterling should be held up as a beacon of hope – somebody who has made the most of their talents, especially after such a difficult upbringing.
The Three Lions star has since revealed that the gun tattoo was a tribute to his late father, who was shot and murdered when he was a young child. To have the one thing which contributed to the death of his father inked on his leg would appear pretty bizarre, but it’s his life and his right to do whatever he wants with his body.
Unfortunately, since guns were invented they have become a fact of life and I don’t think Sterling – nor Keane for that matter – can be blamed for the ills of society.
On a more light-hearted note, Sterling’s explanation that he had the rifle inked on his right calf because ‘the right foot is what I shoot with’ got me thinking that I hope the ball does not drop to him on his left-foot, six-yards out, with the World Cup at his and England’s mercy this summer.