'Raheem Sterling made a huge mistake', says players chief
Raheem Sterling "made a mistake" in apparently being filmed inhaling the legal high nitrous oxide but the 20-year-old Liverpool star should be treated with understanding, according to players' union chief Bobby Barnes.
Footage has emerged of Sterling appearing to take 'laughing gas' and then passing out, and Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers said he will be speaking to his player about his lifestyle.
Barnes, deputy chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association and European president of the international players' union FIFPro, said people should not be too hard on Sterling.
Barnes said: "Nobody would condone the use of these types of substances whether legal or otherwise as footballers are seen as role models. It does send a message to young people that if it's good enough for footballers then it's good enough for them and that is not desirable.
"But you have to bear in mind that we ask an awful lot of young players growing up in the public eye. Many of us look back at things we have done in our teens and early 20s and wish we hadn't done them.
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"He's made a mistake and people are human. I am sure this will be a minor blip on his path to a fantastic career.
"Players have to be aware that there is camera on every corner - they are very much in the spotlight.
"He's a young man, growing up in public eye and he's made a mistake. Let's not be too hard on the boy. He is under a lot of pressure and people think because he has a lot of talent he's also supposed to have diplomacy and wisdom.
"In the main he's doing a very good job, he's at a good club and has a good manager and I'm sure Brendan will put his arm around him and at the same time make him aware of his responsibilities."
Barnes added that the PFA and clubs were constantly updating educational programmes on lifestyle for young players,
He added: "Lifestyle is a very important part of the education programmes, whether it is alcohol, gambling, legal highs or whatever, and they are constantly evolving. We are conscious these things happen in the real world and of the pressure that exists on young people."
Rodgers said he regarded Sterling, who scored in the 2-0 win over Newcastle on Monday night, as "super-professional'' but would need to speak to the England international about his lifestyle.
Rodgers said: ''For me it is something that when you are a professional sportsperson at the top level of the game, I don't think it is something you should be doing. It's as simple as that.
''But I will speak to him on it, to see what he says. We want players here who are super-professional and focused on their football. I know he is, he very much is focused on his football and improving as a player.
''As I have said before, young players make mistakes. As long as they learn from them, that is what is important.''
The matter adds to the controversy and negativity currently surrounding Sterling amid a wrangle over a new contract.
Sterling risked the wrath of supporters a fortnight ago by admitting he had rejected a £100,000-per-week deal in an interview that was not sanctioned by the club.
Another newspaper also published pictures of him allegedly smoking a shisha pipe over the weekend.