Written by our Brazilian correspondent, Allan Caldas.
How far and deep do we need to go until we realise all the damage that racial and sexist abuse throughout football is causing not only to players but also to fans.
The escalation of hate isn’t stopping and clearly has found on social media a substitute to being in the stands, which of course have been empty for over a year.
Whether at the ground or in front of a screen the abusers feel comfortable to display their unforgivable sport: to spread their frustrations expressed as racism, homophobia, misogyny and other forms of violence.
In the past, at the stadium we were used to using our voices to bring some discomfort to someone. It was almost funny booing the opponent players, the referee, even our players, or chanting offensive songs towards the other side. How naive we were.
It was only in the last fifteen years or so that we, as a society, started opening the eyes – and ears, and hearts – to this kind of behavior and its negative impact. To us, as supporters, and them, the players.
But, despite all the educational campaigns, the episodes of abuse towards players increased more and more, all around the world, almost in defiance to common sense. Booing became monkey noises, chants slightly offensive turned into real anthems to racism, sexism or other kinds of discriminations.
The stands are empty now. But the relief of black players, the favorite victims of abuses in football, didn’t last long. Online abuse was already in existence, but with the new pandemic world, social media became the favourite weapon of the uncaring.
Abusers used to use the crowd to hide, but now ‘virtual’ abuse is totally hidden. But there’s a cruel difference. Instead of being harassed once by thousands, now the players suffer thousands of offenses from each hater separately. A booing or a chant can last a few minutes, maybe, and only happens during the game. Terrible, of course. But the virtual violence is a cold, personal decision, staying visible on the player’s social media available for everybody to view.. Can be seen again, again and again. And it doesn’t stop with the final whistle. Tomorrow the nightmare continues.
Along with racial abuse, female footballers are the new targets of the haters, as a consequence of the growth of women’s football in the past couple of years.
With social media being more and more a window to the world, the first year of pandemic made a decent number of people say enough is enough. From only the last couple of weeks, we have seen several examples of how disturbing this persecution can be, with drastic consequences.
One of the most prestigious players from the last 30 years, the former world champion Thierry Henry, now trying a coaching career after some years as a TV pundit, announced that he would step back from his social media accounts, tired of being the target of offenses. Same decision taken by Swansea City players and staff, who chose a week long boycott of all their platforms, in a protest against the most recent episodes of racism towards Jamal Lowe, Yan Dhanda and Ben Cabango. Right after, Rangers and Birmingham joined Swansea at the boycott.
What is the next step? Abandon football? Abandon social media?? Hiding yourself and letting them make the rules? Enough is enough.