Former England striker Emile Heskey revealed he once got chased down the street by a man shouting racist abuse at him, but says he was never targeted in English football grounds.
Heskey, who retired in 2016, was a young academy player at Leicester when a fan accosted him outside the stadium and abused him.
The 42-year-old suspects the same man will have been cheering him on when he made his debut as a 17-year-old and went on to help the Foxes win silverware.
There have been several high-profile cases of racism in England over the past couple of years, with Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling and Arsenal’s Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang among the players to have been the subject of racist abuse.
But Heskey never found himself targeted inside a stadium in England.
“I can’t say that I got any abuse in England, it was always abroad,” he told the PA news agency.
“In normal life I got more abuse. I never got anything in England but I would walk down the street and be chased.
“I got chased from a Leicester game. I was 13 or 14. Fast-forward three and a half years, that same guy might have been chanting my name.
“It was part of society and part of my upbringing. I can’t say it was good but it made me who I am.”
Heskey played 62 times for England across an 11-year period and was on the receiving end of abuse in eastern European countries.
FIFA has introduced the three-step protocol which could ultimately see players walk off the pitch – something England were close to doing in their Euro 2020 qualifier in Bulgaria last year.
Heskey, who also played for Liverpool, Birmingham, Wigan, Aston Villa and Bolton, thinks he would have walked off if he was given the chance.
“I had it with the national team in Slovakia and Croatia,” he said.
“I don’t know because I didn’t have that option. I would like to think I would have (walked off) but I don’t know.
“It is a weird one because when else do you get three chances to have a go at someone and so viciously and get away with it?
“At least it’s there, that’s the good thing, and it is something that can be used, whereas when I was playing there was nothing, you just had to take it on the chin and move on.”
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