Figures that make one depressed? A recent review shows that attacks on social media are a familiar everyday life for the world’s best players. “One of football’s biggest challenges,” says Tim Sparv.
This weekend, remarkable figures were presented in international football. Players at the highest level are exposed to swear words, hatred and discrimination on social media on a broad front, shows a examination which Fifa has developed in collaboration with the player body FifPro.
The review analyzed over 400,000 posts published on social media (Twitter and Instagram) before, during and after the final of last summer’s European Championships and last winter’s African Championships.
More than half of the players received attacks. Homophobic and racist comments were the most common.
The phenomenon is well known, but the crowd is surprising, says the Finnish national football team’s former team captain Tim Sparv.
– It is no surprise that a lot of crap is written online and it is good that the focus is on this. That is one of the biggest challenges in football right now.
– Many players get to receive posts that are not okay, and they have to get tools to cope with it. It will not disappear.
English players hit
Last summer, England played the European Championship final against Italy and lost after penalties. Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Bukayo Saka were the shooters who saw Italy’s goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma become a gold hero with his saves.
After the European Championship final, both Rashford and Saka received discriminatory comments and hatred via social media. The Fifa review shows that the black players who missed penalties for England were the biggest targets for attacks after the European Championship final.
– It is scary and terrible, says Sparv.
– It is a pity that this behavior has become so normalized. We can not accept anything just because it is players who receive this. Football is full of emotions and we must preserve that, but the culture that anyone can write anything without consequences must be reshaped.
“Authorities and police needed”
Sparrow says that he got away relatively easily during his career when it comes to football. On the other hand, he received some insults and swear words in connection with positions outside football.
– In the national team context, I have never received so much negative as after we knelt down and took a stand for anti-racism before a match against Wales.
Last year, national team midfielder Glen Kamara was exposed to racism in a club team match and he said that he receives racist comments almost daily. Close to the incident, the national team started the World Cup qualifier and then the players and the entire Swedish Football Association showed their support for Kamara.
– We supported Glen and received a lot of hate messages on our profiles in social media. Unfortunately, this is quite normal. There are players who have had it incredibly hard and this affects one’s mental health and the ability to perform one hundred percent on the field.
Considering how frequent the attacks are, Sparv does not give much for the football associations’ campaigns against discrimination and racism. It takes a lot more.
– This survey shows problems that we already knew about – perhaps even more extensive than we thought. I hope that Fifa and FifPro have plans that go deeper, but that is not enough with Fifa and Uefa. Authorities and the police are also needed.
– Players receive such rude messages that it must have consequences for the person who writes. And this does not only apply to football, it is everywhere.
Take part in the whole Fifa’s survey here.