Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has hailed Raheem Sterling as an “incredible person” after the English forward hit out at the media coverage that he said helps fuel racism.
Sterling made the comment on Sunday a day after he faced alleged racist abuse from a supporter during City’s 2-0 Premier League defeat by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
“Raheem said it perfectly. He is an incredible person, an incredible human being,” Guardiola told a news conference on Tuesday.
“In the 21st century it’s tough to understand today what happened years ago for black people. You have to protect how equal we are together and help us to be better.
“Racism is everywhere, it’s not just in football. We have to fight to make a better future for everyone, not just in England but everywhere.”
Chelsea have suspended four supporters from attending matches pending investigation and the Metropolitan Police are reviewing the video footage of the incident.
“I appreciate what Chelsea did and if it happened in my club we would do the same,” Guardiola added.
The Professional Footballers’ Association was critical of media’s portrayal of Sterling, saying the England international and former Liverpool player was often singled out.
When asked if Sterling faces a harsh treatment from the media, Guardiola said: “I don’t know. When I arrived here I spoke with him because I know he was so active on social media.
“You expect it (negativity) when he’s played bad, but just for the colour of his skin? No.”
City have qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League and need a point against Hoffenheim on Wednesday to secure top spot in Group F.
Guardiola said he has only 15 fully fit first-team players available for selection after David Silva was ruled out with a muscular strain.
The Spanish midfielder was substituted against Chelsea in the second half and he will join striker Sergio Aguero and playmaker Kevin de Bruyne on the sidelines.
“I can’t rotate too much. If I could have one thing, it would be to get my players back,” he said.
“We have to try and win every game and finish first, just to have that little advantage in the last 16.”