The last year or so has seen football fans across England develop a serious soft spot for Raheem Sterling, with millions rallying around the Manchester City star following the rough treatment he’s received in the press. Now, Crystal Palace fans have been given another reason to admire the 24-year-old title-chaser.
Selected to start in England’s game against the Czech Republic on Friday night, Raheem continued his purple patch of goalscoring form by bagging a hat-trick; his second in the last month. As part of his celebrations, he lifted his shirt to reveal a message of respect for 13-year-old Crystal Palace youth player Damary Dawkins, who sadly passed away just before the game took place.
Got all the time in the world for Raheem Sterling paying tribute to Damary Dawkins last night. He’s just a thoroughly decent human being. ❤️💙 pic.twitter.com/vVW659R9s6
— HLTCO (@HLTCO) March 23, 2019
Having seen Damary suffer with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia for five years, Raheem was involved in a campaign to source a stem cell donor in the hope of potentially turning the tide in the teenager’s favour. Unfortunately, their efforts were unsuccessful but it was clearly on the attacker’s mind in the lead up to the game, leading him to pay tribute to Dawkins in front of the bright Wembley lights on Friday night.
Whilst a footballer’s primary job will always be to deliver on the pitch, the manner in which Sterling conducts himself away from the game deserves real credit too. You won’t need me to remind you of the ludicrous headlines he’s had thrown his way over the last few years, with the tabloid press going out of their way to tarnish his name for all sorts of banal reasons but even they have struggled to pick holes in him over the last 12 months.
Damary Dawkins may have lost his brave battle last week but his name will live on in people’s minds for years thanks to Sterling’s actions and given Palace fans’ close connection with the story, I would hope Raheem receives a warm welcome at Selhurst when he next steps out there in a Manchester City shirt.