Soccer Stadium

FOOTBALL & SOCIAL MEDIA

WORDS:LUCY ROBERTS

Football and social media: Why it desperately needs to change

 

Social media is like marmite, you either love it or hate it, or feel both at the same time. 

 

It is connecting people more than ever before, especially during the pandemic. 

 

Those from Generation Z couldn’t live without it. 

 

However, is it ruining football?

Twitter and Instagram are footballers favourite platforms to be on… not so much after a loss. 

 

A team photograph, a video of the latest initiation of a new player, the announcement of a pregnancy and highlighting charitable causes are all examples of ways football players use social media to their advantage and show their fans that little bit extra, their life away from the pitch.

During his campaign to get school children free meals during the October half term, Manchester United player Marcus Rashford used Twitter to show how many businesses were supporting the initiative and to raise awareness.

However, having to deal with abuse hurled at them on a daily basis, whether that be a racist comment or a death threat towards them and their family, is it really worth footballers being on social media?

After a team loses a match following a bad performance fans are at the ready with their keyboards, about to publish vile comments, thinking that somehow it will help their team perform better next time.

Premier League side Leeds United released a two-season documentary about their attempt to get promoted to the top-flight and the players were specifically asked about social media and they revealed unsurprisingly that posts by fans which slate them really do affect their confidence and don’t bring about anything positive.

Although the Leeds United squad said they try not to read them, it is simply human nature that you want to see what people think about you and they will inevitably read something negative about themselves. 

 

Some fans clearly didn’t listen. 

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After the Leeds United vs Arsenal match back in November 2020, both clubs published a statement saying that some of the comments about certain players in the match, specifically Ezgjan Alioski from Leeds and Nicolas Pepe of Arsenal, wouldn’t be tolerated and that both clubs would be investigating the matter with the police. 

 

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Racism is a massive issue, and it is no different on social media.

Black players including Crystal Palace’s Wilfred Zaha, Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham and Manchester United’s Paul Pogba and Rashford have all received racist comments on social networking sites.

Zaha revealed to the Independent newspaper that he is scared to check his messages on Twitter because of how many racially charged comments there would be.

He has had to go to the efforts of blocking some of his followers because of the unacceptable messages he has been sent, including ones from a 12-year-old boy who has since been arrested for the racist comments towards the footballer.

But Zaha shouldn’t have to do that, he shouldn’t be receiving hateful messages, he should not be targeted because of the colour of his skin.

He has called for social media companies to put in place an ID system when people are signing up for an account, so they can be vetted, and they can’t hide behind a screen any longer as they can be easily identified.

This has not yet happened, and it doesn’t look like there are any plans to put this in place, so it should be asked again, is social media worth it?

Players themselves have been caught out including Manchester United’s Edinson Cavani and Manchester City midfielder Bernardo Silva.

Both players posted offensive material on social media, with Silva putting a picture of a dark-skinned advertising mascot on Twitter in September 2019 and likened it to fellow City player Benjamin Mendy, in who personally wasn’t offended but it was still taken down.

More recently in November 2020, Cavani had to apologise after replying to a congratulatory tweet for his scoring efforts to help his team, Manchester United, beat Southampton 3-2, by saying: “Gracias n******,” to his friend, although on both occasions the players weren’t tweeting from a place of malice, they thought it was acceptable because of the (Spanish) culture they were brought up in and used to.

They didn’t know any different, which is an entirely different issue altogether. There are many examples of racism towards football players on social media, too many to write, and it shouldn’t be like this. Social media in football can be a wonderful thing and often it is, but if we have to take the unacceptably bad with the good, is it really worth it?