Guest editing the Radio 4 news show, the England winger commented eloquently on education, mental health issues, his Jamaican heritage and sport’s place in society

If a guest edit by the England and Manchester City footballer Raheem Sterling was intended to cut through the surfeit of Covid-flavoured items that make up the Today programme in 2021, then the news agenda had other ideas. With panicked updates on PCR test shortages and reduced isolation times dominating, it was 40 minutes into Sterling’s special episode before we encountered any of his contributions.

Once they had begun, however, it was clear what Sterling’s key themes would be: social mobility, his efforts to inspire the next generation with his charitable foundation, and the impressive feats of the England Euro 2020 squad in the face of appalling racism. From Jamaica – where the 27-year-old was born – we heard about his efforts to help young people out of deprivation. The report was light on detail, but demonstrated Sterling’s importance in the world beyond the UK. Presenter Amol Rajan then spoke to football coach Clive Ellington, an early mentor to Sterling, who highlighted the need to consider the mental health and wellbeing of children who are being primed for sporting success. During the first two hours of the programme, there was much talk of overcoming barriers in society, especially educational ones, but no deeper discussion about why these barriers exist.

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