Gary Lineker says he suffered racist abuse because of "darkish skin"
Match of the Day host Gary Lineker has said he suffered racist abuse during his footballing career because of his 'darkish skin'.
The former England international, 61, played professionally as a forward between 1979 and 1994 - representing Leicester, Everton, Barcelona, Tottenham and Japanese outfit Nagoya Grampus. He won 80 senior caps for his country, scoring 48 goals.
Lineker insists he heard the racial insults when he was a teenager before his professional career started, describing himself as a "tiny, geeky kid". He's also claimed well-known figures from within the sport made the offensive slurs but has refused to name them.
"Without being good at sport, life would have been very different for me," Lineker told the High Performance Podcast, which is co-hosted by BT Sport presenter Jake Humphrey.
"Because I was, I think I would have been bullied at school, I was kind of marginally that way anyway because I was this tiny geeky kid, with darkish skin and I had pretty much racist abuse although I’m not, I’m as English as they come. All the time, all the time.
"Even in professional football I had that a couple of times, I wouldn’t ever name any names. So I got that kind of nonsense, which was a bit weird. Whether that was part of something that made me, I don’t know, but other people might not be able to handle that."
Lineker started his professional career at boyhood club Leicester, coming through the ranks and making his senior debut against Oldham on New Year's Day in 1979. He went on to score 103 goals in 216 games for the East Midlands club before leaving in 1985.
That summer, Lineker joined league champions Everton. He spent just one season at Goodison Park, yet it proved to be a successful one - finding the back of the net 38 times and winning the Community Shield to earn a move to Spanish giants Barcelona.
Lineker enjoyed a prolific three-year spell at the Camp Nou, scoring 52 goals. He inspired Barcelona to a 1-0 victory against Real Sociedad in the Copa del Rey final in March 1988 and a 2-0 win against Sampdoria in the Cup Winners' Cup final 14 months later.
Lineker returned to England in the summer of 1989 to join Tottenham and scored 80 more goals in his homeland. He won the FA Cup in May 1991 - helping Spurs beat Nottingham Forest 2-1 - and spent the final two years of his professional career in Japan.
At international level, Lineker helped England reach the semi-finals of the World Cup in 1990. He also won the competition's Golden Boot four years earlier. His many individual honours include the PFA Players' Player of the Year and two FWA Footballer of the Year awards. The forward finished as runner-up in the Ballon d'Or vote in 1986.
Lineker moved into the media after retiring and has hosted several programmes since the 1990s. He is best known for being the main presenter of Match of the Day, hosting the BBC's flagship football show since taking over from Des Lynam in 1999.