Pep Guardiola has hailed Raheem Sterling as an “incredible human being” for confronting the issue of racism in football.
Sterling was subjected to alleged racial abuse during Manchester City’s Premier League defeat at Chelsea on Saturday.
The player later issued a statement accusing the media of fuelling racism in the way it reports certain stories about black players.
Speaking for the first time since, City manager Guardiola said: “I was concerned with what happened but he made a statement on Instagram and was quite clear about his thoughts.
“He’s an incredible person, an incredible human being.
“It’s tough in the 21st century to still be in this position, to have problems with diversity. We have to be better, everyone.”
Guardiola believes racism is a deep problem in society, of which football is reflective, and it must be combated.
Speaking at a press conference, Guardiola said: “It’s everywhere, racism is everywhere. People focus on football but it’s not just in football. You’d think in football we’d be safe but racism is everywhere.
“What happens today – how we treat immigrants and refugees, when once in our lives our grandfathers were refugees. It’s everywhere. That’s why we have to fight every day.
“We have to fight for human rights to make a better society for the future. Today it’s dangerous, not just in England, all across Europe.
“The message for the politicians is for them to be tough on human rights and we have to defend democracy in the best way.”
Guardiola also pointed out the media has a crucial role to play.
He said: “Today the real power is the media, not politicians, not the governments. It’s the media.”
The Metropolitan Police have launched an investigation into the alleged racial abuse at Stamford Bridge while Chelsea have suspended four supporters.
“I appreciate what Chelsea did,” Guardiola said. “If it happened in my club we should do the same.”
Guardiola says comments about players should restricted to performances on the field.
He said: “Hopefully the criticism is when he plays s***, he plays bad. That would be perfect. Everyone is exposed to that – the managers, the players, everyone around the world.
“But just for the colour of his skin? Believe me, that’s ridiculous and that’s why everyone has to protect from that situation.”
Sterling’s team-mate Leroy Sane also believes the England international has dealt with the matter well.
He said: “I think it’s sad this happens still. We all support Raheem and are on his side.
“He is a strong guy, a good guy. He can handle it and he is not letting it get him down.”
Paul Ince, who was England’s first black captain, also praised Sterling’s conduct.
Ince, a Paddy Power ambassador, said: “Players get criticised by fans. I’m sure he can deal with that. When it becomes racist, that’s a different kettle of fish and that’s when we all have to stand up and make sure we deal with the people who do these things.
“Raheem reacted very, very well. It would be easy to retaliate to that type of remark. For him to keep his head was absolutely fantastic. He was outstanding on Saturday.”