LONDON • Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola on Tuesday praised his player Raheem Sterling for refusing to be intimidated by the menace of racism in football.
The Englishman allegedly suffered racial abuse from a Chelsea fan during City's 2-0 Premier League defeat at Stamford Bridge last Saturday.
Four fans have since been temporarily suspended by Chelsea as investigations continue and, yesterday, The Sun identified one of them as Dean Silsby. He admitted to hurling vulgarities and was sorry, but denied any racist behaviour.
On Tuesday, The Daily Mail had identified the man who was caught on camera, Colin Wing, as the main perpetrator.
Guardiola, speaking about the controversy for the first time, backed Sterling and hailed his decision to speak out.
"I was concerned with what happened but he made a statement on (his) Instagram (page) and was quite clear about his thoughts," he said. "He's an incredible person, an incredible human being.
"It's tough in the 21st century to still be in this position, to have problems with diversity. We have to be better, everyone."
The Spaniard said that racism was rooted in society and insisted more had to be done to combat it.
"People focus on football, but it's not just in football. You'd think in football, we'd be safe, but racism is everywhere," he said. "We have to fight for human rights to make a better society for the future. Today it's dangerous, not just England, all across Europe."
German forward Leroy Sane praised his teammate for showing great dignity in dealing with the abuse, saying: "He is a strong guy, a good guy. He can handle it and he is not letting it get him down."
Separately, Herman Ouseley, who received hate mail earlier this week after talking about the Sterling abuse, revealed he was leaving at the end of the term as the head of Kick It Out, the football anti-racism group he founded in 1993.
He felt the English football authorities had yet to come together to target racism in the game with a "coherent strategy", but he had to step down "to concentrate on some other responsibilities".
"The stuff that Sterling put into the public arena is so important, and that needs to be kept on the highest burner," the British MP said. "A lot more people go to a game and don't want to have that sort of s*** going on - that's progress. But prejudice is still there."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE TIMES, LONDON