Ainsley Maitland-Niles says he experienced racist abuse when he was coming through the ranks at Arsenal and that he firmly stands behind Raheem Sterling’s decision to call out the media’s roll in fuelling such behaviour.
Sterling was subject to alleged racist abuse from Chelsea fans during Manchester City’s game at Stamford Bridge and reacted on Monday by highlighting on social media the disparity between the way the press treats young black and white athletes.
The England international has been widely praised for his stance and Maitland-Niles hopes that by shedding a light on such ‘disgusting’ prejudice everyone involved in the game can ‘kick it out’.
“Yes, I have [experienced it],” Maitland-Niles said in a press conference ahead of Thursday’s Europa League game with Qarabag. “Not at a professional level but growing up in the youth ranks.
“I think it’s disgusting, honestly. I really do credit Raheem for coming out and standing up for himself and other players and speaking about it. But, I just think that if a lot of football clubs and some of the players too can join forces to really put our heads to it and try to kick it out, it would be the best thing possible.”
Maitland-Niles confirmed that he was only 12-years-old when he was abused in an away game in Germany and that the situation played out similarly to that experienced by Sterling. To compound matters, the midfielder lamented that despite reporting the incident nothing was done.
“It was pretty much similar to what Raheem got to be honest,” he said.
“I literally went out to pick up the ball for a throw-in and there was a bit of racial abuse behind me. What can I do? I just got on with the game, as he did.
“It hurts. It hurts me to talk about it. It hurts to think about it. But I think that’s why it’s so important that we need to get rid of it from the game.
“It’s not just footballers who need to be on board with it. It’s everyone else: the press, the media and the staff as well.”
He added: “I did [report the incident], but nothing was done about it. I guess I just had to move on from it and become stronger from that.
“At the time, I just spoke to my dad about it and he did sort of give me the heads up and showed me a few things about racism before my time, when I was playing football, just as there still is in the game now.
“As we’ve seen, from Raheem Sterling coming out to speak, so like I said before, I think we just really need to put our heads to it and get it cut out as soon as possible.”
Well said Ainsley.