Raheem Sterling Wants To Let You Know ‘The World Is Yours To Take’

As sponsors of the FIFA World Cup for more than 30 years, Budweiser has represented the joy that unites football fans all around the world with their campaigns.

Raheem Sterling Budweiser Interview
Photography by Shane Duncan/Complex Original
Raheem Sterling Budweiser Interview

11 years ago, I watched a young Raheem Sterling destroy Southend United in the FA Youth Cup. Each goal was terrific, scarily showing the range of goals we would come to know him by, showing the tenacity of a young boy yearning to become a professional footballer. It was a sublime viewing, one so strong I became his strongest advocate in my college common room. “Don’t watch that, fam! Sterling’s loading. Watch next season,” I’d say one day, followed by “Sterling and Suso are gonna be some of the best players in the world,” the next, and I was right.

As a Liverpool fan, one traumatised by years of mediocrity, the signing of Sterling from QPR rang bells. I heard through the footballers I knew that he was touted for greatness, and I could see it for myself: to see a young Black footballer cut through the ranks and excel at the rate he did was awe-inspiring. A decade and a moment later, we see Sterling at a peak; a professional baller spanning three magnificent clubs, with a cabinet full of trophies, his career thus far is a statement for the beautiful, hard-earned journey to succeed. Having closely followed Sterling’s career for over ten years, it was more than an honour to sit down with him, at a studio in South East London, and talk about his journey.

We spoke about his early days, the days when he had to take three buses to and from footie training during a very troubled time for inner-city London youth. I had a very similar journey, three buses to and from an exclusion centre, weighed down by the context of such a London. While it took me some time to find my bearings, his dedication to the game saw him persevere. Sterling’s story to becoming a top-level baller may not be the most conventional, but it is such a story that makes him a perfect representative for Budweiser’s World Cup campaign for 2022: The World Is Yours To Take

As sponsors of the FIFA World Cup for more than 30 years, Budweiser has represented the joy that unites football fans all around the world with their campaigns. This year enlisting Raheem Sterling—who is on the brink of his 10-year anniversary as an England player—Lionel Messi, and Neymar, The World Is Yours To Take campaign aims to represent the commitment to greatness—no matter what your journey entails.

Dive into our conversation with Starboy Sterling after the jump. 

“When I was younger, football helped with my behaviour and my social skills. It was something I could see that was improving my everyday life.”

Raheem Sterling Budweiser Interview

COMPLEX: Raheem! How’s it going, man? It’s a pleasure to be talking with you today. We’re here courtesy of Budweiser’s latest campaign, The World Is Yours To Take, which is something you’ve shown is possible throughout your career. Was this collaboration a no-brainer for you?

Raheem Sterling:
Yeah, I mean, Budweiser’s not just a drinks brand—they stand for something, and they’ve seen what I’ve been trying to do on and off the field too. It’s a partnership that we’re trying to grow; we’re trying to have an influence on the world in a good way. Like anything, it works both ways: I’m getting the opportunity to work with such a huge brand, but this huge brand’s also coming into my world and seeing some of the things that I’m trying to do off the pitch.

When you were young, you took three buses to get to training—five days a week—at times practising with random objects to develop your skill. Back then, what was the mentality you had that kept driving you forward every single day?

Football was a place of safety for me, a place where I found happiness, a place where—probably at that time—I had the most joy in my life. It was something I was dedicated to enjoy, first and foremost. I was doing it for the enjoyment I got from those training sessions, from those matches. Not even with the possibility of knowing you could become a professional football player, it was the pure joy and love I had for the game. That’s what always kept me going. It was something that was always preparing me for my adult years, you know? I was very much in a difficult circumstance in school, and outside of school. It helped with my behaviour, my social skills, and all those little things. Football was something I could see that was improving my everyday life.

Let me just say: I’m a Liverpool fan. The first time I saw you play was when you were, like, 16 years old and you slapped five goals against Southend. I went to college the next day shouting, “Sterling and Suso are going to take over the world!” Watching your career flourish over the years has been a personal joy for me. What was the idea of success to a 16-year-old Sterling?

When you say Southend times, the idea of success for me then would have been playing for Liverpool’s first team, seeing myself as a regular there and trying to become a professional football player. That was my idea of success back then. I don’t want to sit here and say it was to do this or to do that. Say you go for a job interview, for example, and you get the job—next, it’s how many days you’re going to be working. Are you working three days? “Okay, now I want you to work 4.” It’s always about taking steps and making the right moves. At that point of my career, I needed to become a professional football player. I’m here now, and I’m glad that I got the chance to put the time and effort in to actually do it.

By the end of this season, you could have well amassed over 600 appearances for club and country. You currently sit in the Top 25 Goal Scorers in the Premier League, in sight of the Top 20, and you’re still in a prime period. Naturally, over this time, your goals and dreams…

—in the Top 25?! Alright, alright. Okay! [We both laugh, Sterling nods to himself, impressed at a stat I knew he wouldn’t have in mind. It was worth mentioning; by any standard, he’s had a brilliant run thus far]. 

So what would you say are some of the goals in life you picked up on the way?

Life goals. You talked about Southend days where, at that time in my life, the goal was to become a professional football player. Then the next objective was to become an England player, so on and so forth. Another goal was to be regarded as one of the best in my position, being the best in my position. Now, you know, being a father, I’m trying to balance life as: what’s best for me, what’s best for my family, what’s best for everything. This moment of my life is about bringing peace. Not to say my life is in torment or anything, but it’s about bringing that element of maturity from what I’ve learnt and trying to install that into my family and, of course, my friends around me. I think I’ve stopped thinking from a selfish perspective now. I think of everyone and everything around me. At one point, probably four years ago, it would have been from a selfish footballing perspective. Now, though, I take everything into consideration and try to make the best decisions—in everything, in everyday life. 

“There will be people that produce more and football is full of opinions, but you can’t just have one starboy. We’re all doing what needs to be done.”

Raheem Sterling Budweiser Interview

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