Georginio Wijnaldum: Liverpool midfielder ‘really proud’ to see young black footballers being vocal about racism

Georginio Wijnaldum says he is “really proud” to see younger black footballers such as Liverpool team-mate Trent Alexander-Arnold and Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling being vocal in their support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Wijnaldum, 29, has himself previously spoken out about racial injustice, insisting last year that he is prepared to walk off the pitch if abused during a match.

Speaking to Sky Sports News, the Dutchman says seeing Sterling and Alexander-Arnold setting an example for anyone else afraid to talk fills him with pride.

“I am really proud that they are vocal,” Wijnaldum said. “When other people see that they are vocal they will also want to be. A lot of people feel like they do not have the voice to be vocal, they do not have the platform. Maybe they think they are not that important of a person.

“Sterling and Trent are stars in football, in England they are big players, so when people see that they speak about it they will automatically think ‘if they can do it, we can do it also’.

“It’s a good example, they give the example to everyone to speak and not be afraid.”

Wijnaldum also maintains that any player racially abused during a game should be protected at all costs even if it means potentially stopping matches.

“The right thing to do is for the people on the pitch to protect the player who gets racial abuse. You have to protect the player in that case,” he said.

“In that (moment) the players on the pitch are more important than the game itself – it’s about humans.

“I think there should be rules that the referee has to stop the game to protect the player that is getting abuse.

“That’s what I think, you should protect the player at all times. At a lot of times football and clubs are really important but in that moment the player is more important than all of those things, that’s my opinion.”

‘Getting changed in Everton’s car park was strange!’

The reality of football behind closed doors amid the coronavirus pandemic would have truly hit home for Liverpool’s players when they found out they had to get changed for last weekend’s Merseyside derby in the Goodison Park car park.

Wijnaldum admits he only realised the fact when he arrived at the ground but praised Everton for taking any step they can to keep everyone safe and socially distant.

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“(I found out it was happening) when we came to the stadium,” he said. “Maybe I didn’t pay attention when they said it, that is also possible because you get so much information now. We have to walk around with a piece of paper and they have to scan it (wherever you go). There are so many things that I might have missed them saying we have to change in the car park.

“It was different than what we are used to but on the other side we had a big dressing room. Normally when you come to a stadium the dressing rooms are not that big like we had, so it was also a positive thing.

“It was still strange to go from the car park into the stadium, that was something strange. They made the best of it and made sure everyone is safe as possible – we understand.

“It’s different but whether it really affected our preparation? I don’t know. We just have to deal with the situation, when Everton play away they will also have to dress in a car park, sometimes you have the benefits and sometimes not.”

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‘Keita makes us stronger’

In Wijnaldum’s absence on the bench, Naby Keita impressed in midfield against the Toffees. The Dutchman says he is glad to see the Guinean hit the heights he knows he is capable of after suffering a string of injuries and says he can envisage the pair operating in midfield together.

“I see myself playing with everyone. It’s up to the manager, the manager has to make the decisions and we just play with who he chooses at that moment.

“From Naby we all knew that he has a lot of quality in him because he’s shown it on the training pitch for two years now. He was quite unlucky with the injuries he had but hopefully he can stay fit and show what he is capable of.

“We all know what he can do and he can make the team stronger.”

‘No plans for Chelsea vs Man City; business to take care of first’

Wijnaldum says Liverpool’s players or management have not entertained the thought of a ‘watchalong’ for Chelsea vs Manchester City on Thursday – where a result for Frank Lampard’s side could potentially see Liverpool crowned Premier League champions for the first time.

He says the focus is on taking care of business against Crystal Palace at an empty Anfield on Wednesday, live on Sky Sports.

“No we don’t have plans to watch that game. We have to take care of business, we can only think about our own performance, we can’t perform for Manchester City or for Chelsea so it’s better to think about our own team.

“We are so used to having fans [at Anfield] that it is going to be strange to see when you play that there are no fans there.

“Every team in the Premier League gets help from the supporters that are in the stadium, everyone has that problem and has to face it.”

‘Everyone is happy there is football on TV’

Project Restart is now in full swing with all 20 Premier League sides having taken to the field at least once. Wijnaldum says the viewing experience of empty grounds with artificial crowd nose will take some getting used to but says the fact that there is football on television for the nation to watch is a big positive.

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“I only watched Tottenham vs Manchester United so far. The other games I did not see.

“I watched it with the crowd sound, it’s just strange. You are so used to seeing the crowd, the atmosphere is different. Like I said, we just have too deal with it, the most important thing is that everyone is safe.

“Everyone is happy that there is football on television, everyone is disappointed that you can’t go to games but there is football on television – that’s one positive thing to take out of it.”

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