Sterling`s World Cup dream inked in the stars
The tattoo on England forward Raheem Sterling`s left forearm suggests that he may have been predestined to play the role he has been thrust into at the World Cup.
Depicting a boy in a number 10 shirt clutching a football and looking up at the arch of Wembley Stadium, it represents both the past and the thrilling future that the 19-year-old Liverpool winger now embodies.
Jamaica-born Sterling grew up a short walk from the English national stadium in northwest London and the tattoo symbolises the childhood dreams he once harboured that are now coming true beneath the Brazilian sun.
"I grew up five minutes from the stadium," Sterling told newspaper journalists at England`s Rio de Janeiro training base on Tuesday.
"I used to ride my bike round this little car park that was by the stadium.
"I used to say to myself, `One day, I`d like to play there. Hopefully I could do that,` and I am really grateful to be given that opportunity.
"I know there have been some great players who have played for this country, so for me to be selected in the national team was a great achievement for me."
The figure on the boy`s back has taken on added relevance in the wake of Sterling`s World Cup debut in the 2-1 loss to Italy on Saturday, when he was selected at number 10 and Wayne Rooney was exiled to the left flank.
The effervescence of Sterling`s display suggested that Rooney may struggle to get his preferred position back, but the teenager says that he will readily step aside if manager Roy Hodgson elects to restore the Manchester United striker to a central role against Uruguay on Thursday.
"I would be happy to play anywhere the manager puts me," Sterling said.
"I am a team player. I will be working for the team regardless of which position I play in.
"I don`t think the team was built around me necessarily. I just think the manager thought that was the right position for me at the time, with my pressing and my closing down."Sterling took to World Cup football with arresting ease, testing Italy goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu with a rasping 30-yard drive inside the first five minutes and producing a glorious pass to Rooney in the build-up to Daniel Sturridge`s 37th-minute goal.
"It was a big occasion for me -- my first competitive start -- so I tried to think of it as just another game and give it my best shot," Sterling explained.
"It wasn`t enough at the end of the day, but the team did some really impressive stuff and we will go out on Thursday ready to go again."
Asked if anything frightened him, the former Queens Park Rangers trainee replied: "No. I`m young and I`m learning and I`m taking every day as it goes, but I`ve got a lot to learn and grow up.
"I do worry about stuff, but at the same time I`m learning every day and have people around me guiding me in the right way."
Sterling was one of five Liverpool players in England`s starting line-up in Manaus and there will be six on the pitch in Sao Paulo if Uruguay`s Luis Suarez is declared fit to start following knee surgery.
Uruguay`s shock 3-1 defeat by Costa Rica means that the South American champions are similarly desperate for points and Sterling joked that in the circumstances, it might be better for England if Suarez cannot play.
"I`d rather not see him on the pitch, really," Sterling said with a smile.