I know how it feels and it hurts - Gundogan on Sterling abuse
Ilkay Gundogan's experience in the build-up to Germany's ill-fated World Cup campaign means he feels empathy with Raheem Sterling and the current focus upon his Manchester City team-mate.
Sterling turned in an all-action display in City's 2-1 Champions League win over Hoffenheim on Wednesday, laying on Leroy Sane's decisive strike after the hour.
It was the England forward's first appearance since being targeted by alleged racist abuse during City's 2-0 Premier League defeat at Chelsea.
Chelsea have banned four men from attending matches at Stamford Bridge until they, along with the Metropolitan Police, have completed an investigation into whether Sterling was a victim of racism when he went to collect the ball for a City corner.
One of the supporters banned, 60-year-old Colin Wing, has expressed remorse for his action but denied using a racial slur.
Addressing the incident in an Instagram post, Sterling said he expected "no better" than the abuse he received and highlighted contrasting coverage of white and black players by the UK media – a disparity he believes "helps fuel racism and aggressive behaviour".
"I think he got a lot of support this week. Also, the way Chelsea reacted was good," Gundogan told reporters after turning in an accomplished display at the base of Pep Guardiola's midfield against the Bundesliga outfit.
"Obviously it is something that we all have to fight against, we all have to play our single role to make it better for everyone."
Good first #NationsLeague match. Thank you for your support in Munich. // Guter Nations-League-Auftakt gegen den Weltmeister. Danke für eure Unterstützung in München @dfb_team pic.twitter.com/VNmJY3U3K7
— Ilkay Gündogan (@IlkayGuendogan) September 7, 2018
Gundogan is of Turkish descent and was photographed, alongside international team-mate Mesut Ozil, with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan a month before Russia 2018.
The German Football Association (DFB) criticised Gundogan and Ozil for participating in what it described as an "election campaign stunt" and both players were booed during pre-tournament friendlies.
After Germany crashed out at the group stage, Ozil issued a lengthy statement to announce his retirement from international football, in which he suggested he was the victim of double standards, making him a scapegoat.
"If we win, I'm German. If we lose, I'm an immigrant," the Arsenal playmaker said.
Gundogan remains part of Joachim Low's squad but what he went through publicly in the fallout from the Erdogan meeting means Sterling's situation cuts close to the bone.
"This is obviously something that doesn't belong anywhere in the world, to be honest," he said.
"But it happens and we have to deal with it. It's not easy because I lived that in the summer as well. I know how that feels and it hurts.
"At the end we have no other choice but staying strong, trying to go through that period and do our best on the football pitch to keep being successful."
Premier League champions City are back in action at home to Everton on Saturday and are one point behind Liverpool at the top of the table.