LONDON,. Raheem Sterling dedicated his hattrick in England’s 5-0 rout of the Czech Republic yesterday to a Crystal Palace youngster who recently died of leukaemia.
Sterling has been touched by the plight of Damary Dawkins, who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in 2014 and passed away on Sunday aged 13.
When Dawkins, a member of Palace’s elite development squad, relapsed in 2018, a stem cell donor was his only chance of survival and Sterling joined the appeals for help.
But after a successful transplant, Dawkins relapsed two more times and died last weekend.
After his second goal in the Euro 2020 qualifier at Wembley, England winger Sterling lifted up his shirt to reveal a T-shirt tribute for the schoolboy with a picture of the pair together and the message: “May your soul rest in peace.”
“Damary was a kid I was trying to help and we thought we’d found a donor,” Sterling told ITV.
“Sadly it didn’t match and sadly he passed away.
“I thought I had to do something to try to give his family something to smile about.”
Sterling’s first England treble gave the Manchester City forward five goals in his last three international appearances following his brace in the October win against Spain.
It was the first time England had scored five times at Wembley since October 2014’s victory over San Marino.
“It was a beautiful team performance and I was happy to help the team get the win,” Sterling said.
“I’m just being confident in myself, I’m trying to get in areas and take shots, not to worry about anything.
“The first goal pleased me most, to get myself up and running.”
Sterling’s superb form this season has made him a key man for England and City, while putting him in contention for the Footballer of the Year award.
England manager Gareth Southgate was delighted with Sterling’s dynamic display on an emotional evening.
“I thought Raheem was electric. He has looked like that all week in training. I’m pleased for him, it is a special night for him,” Southgate said.
Sterling has 24 goals for club and country this term and his impressive form is a fry cry from the dark days when he was vilified for his disappointing displays as England crashed out of Euro 2016.
The former Liverpool attacker also endured criticism this season for having a tattoo of a gun, which he claimed he was a tribute to his late father.
Southgate believes Sterling’s ability to handle the adversity laid the foundation for the kind of mature performance he delivered against the overwhelmed Czechs.
“I think he’s really matured as a person and a footballer. He’s hungry for goals and hitting things instinctively without thinking too much,” Southgate added. — AFP