Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka has said he wishes he could meet his online abusers and ask them why they write these kinds of messages, according to football.london.
In a recent study, it was found that a number of players including Xhaka, Hector Bellerin and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have been subjected to racial and homophobic abuse on social media. Some of their abusers were found to be Arsenal season ticket holders.
A number of men and women in football have been on the receiving end of abuse on social media in the recent past. Mike Dean received death threats after making a controversial decision to send off Tomas Soucek in West Ham’s goalless draw to Fulham a few weeks ago. He asked to be left out of consideration for refereeing appointments for the subsequent round of Premier League fixtures.
Newcastle manager Steve Bruce and Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta both admitted that they have received death threats and abuse directed at their families.
Social media giants, football clubs and governing bodies in the sport must come together and take strong action in order to hold the perpetrators of these heinous acts accountable. Twitter recently announced that they had permanently suspended the account from which an abusive comment was made on one of Arsenal striker Eddie Nketiah’s posts.
Xhaka has had a volatile relationship with Arsenal fans and was close to leaving the club last season after clashing with the supporters when substituted in a game against Crystal Palace. He was convinced to stay at the club by Mikel Arteta who joined the Gunners a few months after this incident had occurred.
On being asked how supportive the club were towards him after it came to light that he had been subjected to social media abuse, Xhaka said:
“It’s one of many if I’m honest. If I showed the others what they write, I think I have to close my social media and I think everyone has to close their social media. I say that before, I say that now and I will say it always as well, it’s only about me I am the one on the pitch. It’s not my wife it’s not my little one, it’s not my family. If you want to criticise someone, like a person, like a player, no problem, criticise me. But don’t get other people involved because they have nothing to do with my job.”
“Secondly I have had a lot of help from the club. It’s something we have to speak very openly about it. We don’t have to be quiet and say ‘keep it with me’ because it’s not always easy. But the club was here for me and for my family. I was very open with the guys here. And if you have people around like this to help you it’s very important.”
On whether it is getting worse in his opinion and what the way forward is, he said:
“The problem is only if you lose. It’s not a problem when you win. If you lose everyone hates you, everyone is writing you things where it’s not possible to understand how they’re writing stuff like this. I wish I could meet the people who write these things, to sit with them eye to eye and ask him ‘why are you writing things like this?’ Not only for me personally because it happens a lot in the past few weeks, but only to know what he’s feeling in this moment when he writes things like this. It is not acceptable, so we have to open our eyes and speak a lot because I think you kill football like this if people start to talk about a family or player or things like this.”
On how hurtful it is that some of the abuse came from Arsenal supporters, he said:
“They are not supporters for my club. I don’t see them as supporters for my club. Because the supporters for the club you have to be here, if we lose or if we win. Of course, you can criticise or say what you want about football, but not about the person, not about the family. I think this is two pairs of shoes, about the football, and about the person. If one guy is a ticket holder for the club and he speaks like this about this about his own players I don’t think he gets respect from our side first and from other people.”
On what football can do to tackle the abuse, he said:
“Of course you read the messages but in the end, you have to accept what people think and they write. You can’t give them an answer, because they are waiting for this. The only answer we can give is to speak with our people around the club and to tell them what happened with us. Everything else I don’t think this is our job to give them the answer. Like I said before I wish I could meet the people that are writing things like this and to say that to us face to face. I have no problem with this. But not behind the screen. Things like this it’s not the right way to do this.”
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