England’s Raheem Sterling is leaving the World Cup tournament in Qatar and returning to the United Kingdom to be with his family amid media reports that intruders had entered his home.
The 27-year-old forward, who has 81 caps for England, was left out of the squad on Sunday night in the match against Senegal that saw England win 3-0 and book a place in the World Cup quarter-finals against France.
Sterling is said to have been shaken and concerned about the wellbeing of his children after “armed intruders broke into his home while his family were inside”, the UK’s PA news agency reported on Monday.
“I’ve spent some time with him today. He’s going to fly home. And obviously, family at these moments is the most important thing,” England coach Gareth Southgate told reporters on Sunday night in Qatar when asked about reports of a home intrusion.
“So we want to give him that space. And we’ll see over the next few days how that all develops,” Southgate said.
“He’s on his way home and, yeah, we’re obviously mindful of him being allowed space and [having] privacy respected, so we don’t want to talk in too much detail,” he said.
The England coach did not provide details of the incident, saying it was a private matter for Sterling, and would not say whether he would return to the squad in Qatar.
England’s Football Association said Sterling was not available for the Senegal match for “personal reasons”, and the England team’s Twitter account said he was left off the side as he was “dealing with a family matter”.
— England (@England) December 4, 2022
Support for the England international flooded in on social media, with former England player and TV presenter Gary Lineker saying that he was thinking of Sterling and his family “after their awful and harrowing ordeal”.
Thoughts are with @sterling7 and his family after their awful and harrowing ordeal.
— Gary Lineker 💙💛 (@GaryLineker) December 4, 2022
It was unclear whether Sterling will rejoin the England team in Qatar.
“Obviously it’s not ideal for the group preparing for a game, but the individual is more important than the group in those moments,” Southgate told reporters.
England captain Harry Kane, who scored the second goal of the game against Senegal, said the team wished Sterling their best and hoped to see him again “as soon as possible”.
“It’s never easy to see one of your teammates and friends have to deal with something like that,” Kane said.
“So we’ll have to take it day-by-day, I’m sure Raheem will talk to the manager and take the best decision for him and his family, that’s the most important thing,” he said.
“From us as a team we send him our best and hope to see him as soon as possible.”