MANCHESTER, England — Pep Guardiola has praised Raheem Sterling for making a stand against racism, saying the Manchester City winger is showing “the reality of our society.”
City winger Sterling has emerged as a leader in fighting racism in football and called on UEFA to take action after England players suffered abuse during their victory over Montenegro on Monday.
Guardiola told a news conference that football can lead by example and said the club could be prepared to take players off the pitch if they were subjected to abuse.
“Raheem with his behaviour showed us the reality of our society,” Guardiola said ahead of City’s clash with Fulham on Saturday.
“I think in Europe, not in football, it’s getting worse. Yes, of course, it’s a concern. I’m a human being and it’s not nice.”
Asked if he would take players off, he added: “You could do that. Football is a strong weapon to defend the principles of humanity, I remember when people said you cannot mix politics and football, that is not true.
“When the club, the players or the official decides to do it we are going to follow them.
“I’m not alone at the club. It would have to involve the chairman, the CEO, the captain, my players but if we all decide it is a good decision, then why not? The situation changes when you do something and if you don’t, it’s impossible.”
On the topic, Liverpool manager Klopp said he believes a walk-off because of a minority of supporters would give “too much power for one or two idiots,” but said the decision should be down to match officials if abuse escalated.
“If it’s the whole stand I would do it, 100 percent,” Klopp told reporters ahead of Sunday’s Premier League clash against Tottenham Hotspur.
“But it’s too much power for one or two idiots. We have to find ways to punish these incidents.
“It’s not that the coaches should do that — match officials — because if I take the players off and they say it was not that serious, you lose the game, our job is to win football games.”
Meanwhile, Guardiola has said that he has virtually a full squad to choose from ahead of the lunchtime kickoff at Craven Cottage.
City could move back top of the table with a win and put the pressure on title-rivals Liverpool ahead of their clash with Tottenham on Sunday.
“[Mendy] needs time but he trained the last three days and the reaction in his knee is really good.
“Except Fabian Delph, the others are fit and we have 21-22 players, and they have to compete with each other to take a place in their position.”
City’s game against Fulham is the first in the Premier League in three weeks and Guardiola is expecting a tough race with Liverpool with the chance of an unprecedented quadruple.
“We have a contender and last season we didn’t have it — we’ve got a similar incredible amount of points,” he added.
“We are going to play 11 games, maybe 12 if we deserve it or 14-15 but we have to deserve it. We have eight left in the Premier League and game by game we will see what happens.”
Earlier on Friday, Spurs coach Mauricio Pochettino also lent his support to Sterling while providing an update on Danny Rose who was also on the pitch in Montenegro.
Information from Reuters was used in this report.