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Former England and Spurs striker Gary Lineker has claimed that his darker skin complexion led to him suffering racial abuse when he was young.
Now a presenter on the BBC's flagship football show Match of the Day, the 61-year-old made the confession during a recent podcast interview.
Lineker went on to have an illustrious football career after leaving school in the 1970s, winning the World Cup golden boot with England, while also representing the likes of Barcelona, Everton and Leicester City at club level.
However, during a recent episode of The High Performance Podcast (released on Tuesday), he opened up on life as a kid growing up in the East Midlands.
"Without being good at sport, life would have been very different for me," he said on the podcast, hosted by fellow sport presenter Jake Humphrey.
"I think I would have been bullied at school – I was a tiny, geeky kid with darkish skin. I had pretty much racist abuse, although I'm as English as they come, all the time."
Lineker's prime years as a footballer came in the 1980s, with the former Three Lions star winning the golden boot award at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.
However, it was also a period blighted by horrific racial abuse aimed at black footballers at the time, which former stars like John Barnes have since revealed the true extent of.
According to Lineker, the abuse he suffered for his 'darkish' skin at school also carried over into his playing career.
"Even in professional football I had that a couple of times. I wouldn't name names, but I got that kind of nonsense, which was a bit weird. Other people might not be able to handle that," he added.
The ex-footballer insists that's mental strength on the pitch was key to his success, as he claims that he never got nervous ahead of big matches.
"My greatest strength was not my right foot, it was my mental strength. I always had that." he added, before insisting that he 'never got nervous before a game'.
Lineker's comments sparked a backlash on social media, however, with many Twitter users viewing it as an insensitive remark while others questioned the validity of his claims.
"I just read that Gary Lineker claims to have suffered racial abuse because of his 'darkish skin'... wtf he's as white as a bottle of milk," wrote one critic.
I just read that Gary Lineker claims to have suffered racial abuse because of his “darkish skin”😂😂😂wtf he’s as white as a bottle of milk.— Luigi Pelosi (@Trinacria13) June 21, 2022
"Hard to believe @GaryLineker has been able to live with the trauma of the 'pretty much racist abuse' he suffered," another sarcastically quipped while someone wrote: "Officially the whitest black man ever."
Gary Lineker: " I was bullied for my 'darkish' skin "— Esther K (@estherk_k) June 21, 2022
'Darkish' people: pic.twitter.com/FKIzVBISl4
Away from World Cup success, Lineker enjoyed a very successful club career, having also won the PFA Players' Player of the Year with Everton in 1986 following a big money move from boyhood club Leicester.
He would subsequently enjoy a spell with Spanish giants Barcelona, where he won a Copa del Rey and a European Cup Winner's Cup trophy - before returning to England with Spurs in 1989.
After ending his playing career in Japan, Lineker left the pitch for the television studio, becoming the face of Match of the Day in 1999 - where he remains to this day.
Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock/Alamy
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