LONDON – Liverpool’s teenage winger Raheem Sterling has pledged his international future to England, despite still being eligible for his country of birth, Jamaica.
Report by Reuters
The 18-year-old, who recently signed a five-year contract extension with Liverpool, won his first senior England cap last month in the 4-2 friendly defeat by Sweden.
“It was a dream come true,” Sterling told the British media of playing for England in Stockholm.
“As a 15-year-old, I can remember sitting at home and praying to get an Under-16 call-up.”
“To be getting a senior call-up a few years later was one of the best things that ever happened to me.”
After making his full England debut, he could still have opted to play for Jamaica, where he lived until he was six and the country’s Football Association have continued to court the player.
“I’ve got Jamaican roots, but no-one tried to put any pressure on me,” said Sterling, who has represented England at every level from Under-16 upwards.
“I couldn’t turn my back on England because I’ve grown up through the English youth system and progressed from there. I want to keep driving on and do a bit more.”
Sterling’s decision, though hardly a surprise, will be a blow to Jamaica, whose soccer chief Horace Burrell held talks with the player in October.
However, it provides a boost to England boss Roy Hodgson, giving him more options as he plots the national side’s course to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
“I couldn’t just switch over,” said Sterling, currently a Liverpool regular under Brendan Rodgers and a firm fan favourite at Anfield.
“So it was a good thing for me to be called up and make my debut. It’s 100% going to be England from now on.”
Sterling’s elevation from the fringes of the Liverpool first-team squad under Kenny Dalglish last season was rewarded with a lucrative new deal last week.
“The contract was never about finance,” said Sterling, referring to the protracted talks leading up to the signing of his contract.
“When people were asking why I wasn’t signing, it was at a time when we hadn’t even started negotiating.”