Being a professional footballer, Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin has had to grow a particularly ‘thick skin’ throughout his career, although the 23-year-old Spaniard has spoken out about the brutal abuse that has unfortunately come his way from the public, criticisms that have ‘affected’ the right-back in the past.
Lime light harbours many pros and cons and for sporting personalities like Bellerin, who are charismatic and distinctly unique in their own individual ways, spiteful judgements often surface on social media and indeed from the terraces on matchday.
It’s not just a player’s performance that’s thrown under the microscope, evidently, as the searing Gunners full-back also revealed that his personal appearance has been scrutinised, including his hairstyle.
Speaking to The Times, Bellerin openly divulged: “Some of it can get very abusive. Most of the abuse is online, but you hear it in the stadium, too.
“People have called me ‘lesbian’ for growing my hair. There are other kinds of homophobic insults. I have learnt to grow a thick skin but it can affect you. Every now and again, you get a bit of self-doubt.
“The problem is that people have an idea of what a footballer should look like, how they should behave, what they should talk about.
“You act a little differently and you become a target. There is pressure to conform. This is very dangerous. In life, you should be allowed to express yourself. People are happier like this.”
In the modern game, social media platforms are a useful tool in terms of public relations, and though they’re a great way to keep the fans up to date, Bellerin admitted that he’d previously deleted Twitter from his phone due to the sheer volume of negativity he was receiving.
“It can be a blessing and a curse. When I first came into the ranks at Arsenal, the expectations were very low so people were often impressed when I played well.” He added.
“But then, when I played badly, the stick got crazy. The worst was a year and a half ago. A lot of people say nice things but it is natural to focus on the bad.
“For a while, I deleted the apps. Later, I decided to go back on. Twitter is a great source of information. Every day I am learning to deal with abuse in a better way.”
Homosexuality in football is sadly still an issue and is cruel stigmatised by an apathetic minority, and whilst nobody should have to justify their sexuality, Bellerin believes that it would be ‘impossible’ for a player to come out as gay.
He claimed: “It is impossible that anybody could be openly gay in football.
“Some fans are not ready. When it happened in rugby with the Welsh player [Gareth Thomas], people respected the situation. The fans respected his decision.
“In football, the culture is different. It can be very personal, very nasty, particularly for players from the opposition team.”