Issue 02: Rhian Brewster

Photography: Hamish Stephenson / Styling: Nayaab Tania / Words by: Kyle Harman-Turner

This article is an excerpt from the Rhian Brewster feature from Issue 02 of GAFFER: Heart & Soul. Available now from our online store now.

At only nineteen years old, Rhian Brewster has already displayed a number of leadership qualities. He’s demonstrated bravery to speak up against racism in the game. He’s shown maturity to seamlessly transition into the first team at Liverpool. He’s exhibited a calmness under pressure to finish top scorer and lift the trophy at the Under 17 World Cup. But if these are the qualities we observe as fans from the outside, then what type of leader does Rhian feel like he is on the inside?

“I want to be a Golden Boot Winner. I want to win the Premier League. I want to win the Champions League. I want to win the World Cup. I want to win everything that I can. The moment you start second guessing yourself is the moment you fail.”

“I’m good at speaking but I don’t shout at people. I’m more of a ‘get the ball and put it in the back of the net’ type of leader. The players playing now are all leaders. Liverpool have a lot of leaders in the dressing room. Virgil van Dijk is the captain for his country. Robbo (Andy Robertson) is the captain for Scotland. We’ve got a lot in our team. Liverpool is a great club. From the outside looking in, everyone can see how close the team and the city is. Going to Liverpool has made me a better person.”


Rhian might still be on the cusp of the first team but is already well aware of his rising status, his reach and his ability to impact upon millions around the globe. He knows that the pitch is very much his podium to speak to the world. 

Rhian might still be on the cusp of the first team but is already well aware of his rising status, his reach and his ability to impact upon millions around the globe. He knows that the pitch is very much his podium to speak to the world. 


“If you’re a good footballer, the higher you go, the more people are going to listen to you. If you’re a good footballer and a good talker, like Raheem Sterling, you’re going to go a long way. He’s a good footballer. He does what he needs to do on the pitch. He doesn’t let the haters get in his head. He also has a voice. He isn’t afraid to say how he feels, and I think that’s powerful. And he’s still so young.”


Talking more specifically to his social media presence, Rhian already has triple the Instagram followers of the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. He’s empowered by his opportunity to become an influential voice for his generation.


“I haven’t even started my career properly yet and I’ve got more followers than him (Boris Johnson). You can use that as a platform to speak to the younger generation – and also to some of the older generation too. I think footballers can change a lot of things in the world. People are starting to hear that now.”


So, with such a huge following and reach, the question then quickly turns to how Rhian plans to use it? What issues does he feel passionate about? Having been racially abused a remarkable seven times already during his short career, cracking down on racism within the game is clearly at the very top of that agenda; “I’ve been abused quite a bit. It is what it is. You can’t stop a guy from being racist. I know it’s still going to happen in football.”


There are plenty of examples, but perhaps the craziest is the case of Nicklas Bendtner and his underpants. Bendtner was fined 80k for revealing his branded pants during a goal celebration, whereas Porto were only fined £16,700 for racist chanting during the same season. So, in UEFA’s world, wearing a pair of marketed underpants is therefore a crime worse than racism? “It makes you think, what the hell? They’re just going to keep doing it. To be fair, UEFA need to step up. I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again.” There are hundreds of examples like this and rather than punish racism, they simply serve to highlight just how ridiculously it’s dealt with by the authorities in charge.

Players like John Barnes have long debated the best way to deal with racism in the game. Walking off the pitch is one option, but Rhian feels like it will have little long-term impact; “You could just walk off the pitch, yeah. But will it stop someone from being racist? Probably not.”


Ultimately, Rhian feels like point deductions are where it will really hurt the clubs. Considering Liverpool lost out on the Premier League title by one solitary point last season, he knows how fine margins are; “Your team could be doing well and boom, three points could cost you the league title.” It’s certainly powerful to think that a three-point deduction to Man City last season would have cost them the league title or a three-point deduction to Brighton would have sent them down into the Championship.


Real impact is the unifying thread that all players want when it comes to racism, which is exactly what he wants to see applied to players and fans who bring racist mindsets into our game; “Player wise, give them lifetime bans. Players love football and they won’t want to be banned. Fans too.”


Asked if Rhian would ever consider taking up a role on the FA ‘No Room for Racism’ task force, he replied; “Yeah why not? I can give a different point of view from other players. So can Raheem and other players as well. It might help with modern day football.”


So, if not racism, are there other issues that resonate for the boy who grew up in Chadwell Heath? He speaks with a soft and thoughtful nature about everything from the homeless crisis to the importance of education. From the outside, we can be quick to stereotype footballers as superficial, but this is a young man showing compassion and reflection beyond his years. It’s yet another example of Liverpool Football Club raising good people as well as good players.

“I remember watching a video the other day on Instagram. This guy dropped his wallet and a homeless man gave it back to him. The guy gave him some money as a reward. The homeless man then bought all the other homeless people food. Like a good twenty of them. He’s giving kindness. He’s unfortunate, yet he’s still helping others. If I see a homeless person in the street, I try my best to help them. Maybe give them a bit of money, some food, a drink. You try the best you can to put a smile on their face.

“I wasn’t that great at school, but I wish I could go back and change that. I would put my head down and study more. Because you never know when it could end. I got the bad injury. That could have been career ending. Thank God it wasn’t.

“Even if you have a great career, after that, education is important. Take Giorgio Chiellini. He has three or four university degrees and when he’s retired, he’s going to push on and do other stuff. I think that’s great. I want to do something like that.”

Perhaps the one defining quality of our time spent with Rhian is his empathy. This isn’t your typical footballer driving up high up in a Range Rover, with the real world out of sight and out of mind. He can see the issues clearly before him. It’s given him an underlying strength that sets him apart from other players. Layer this with his other qualities, like his unwavering belief and suddenly there’s a very well-balanced young man emerging to lead the line for Liverpool.

Standing up and being counted is what Rhian does. Talking of the values that his mum and dad installed in him, he distils it to one simple statement; “Don’t take no rubbish from anyone. Always stand up for yourself.” It has certainly stood him in good stead so far and he’s now unwavering in his belief for what will come next.

“I want to be a Golden Boot Winner. I want to win the Premier League. I want to win the Champions League. I want to win the World Cup. I want to win everything that I can. The moment you start second guessing yourself is the moment you fail.”

Like this article? Enjoy all cover features and interviews in Issue 02: Heart and Soul – available now from the GAFFER Online Shop.


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Issue 02: Heart & Soul
Ada Hegerberg, Andre Gray, Maya Jama, Andreas Perreira, Christian Pulisic
GAFFER Issue 02: ‘Heart & Soul.’ Honouring the way football cultivates community spirit, empowers the next generation and gives fans, teams and players something bigger and more beautiful to believe in. Be prepared to meet the people who are driving the culture to new heights and those who are set to change the face of the game forever.
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