Press conference

Ainsley - My experiences of racism in football

In the wake of the situation surrounding Raheem Sterling, Ainsley Maitland-Niles was asked about his own experiences of racism in football.

Our young midfielder revealed that he had been subject to abuse earlier in his career.

This is what he told the media at London Colney on Wednesday:

on his personal experiences of racism are...
Yes, I have [experienced it]. 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.

on whether he can say what happened to him at youth level...
It was pretty much similar to what Raheem got to be honest. 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.

on whether he reported the incident...
I did, but nothing was done about it. I guess I just had to move on from it and become stronger from that.

on how old he was at the time...
I was about 12 years of age. I was at Arsenal at the time. It was an away trip to a German side, I think.

on how much that has stayed with him or how much it affected him at the time...
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.

on how it made him feel and how he was able to respond...
To me, responding to it is scoring a goal to put their team down. I only thought they were doing it because I was having a good game in that game. I guess that's one way of them sort of trying to knock me off my game and make me feel uncomfortable about myself. But to be honest, I just try and play my football and not really say much about anything.

on if he thinks Sterling going public could be a defining moment...
I hope so. I really do hope so. Raheem is a good, brave lad for doing it and I just hope that more people put their ear towards him and have some sympathy for him, because it's not the first time it's happened and we just want it to be the last.