Modern football has a very unique element that sets it apart from the sport in the bygone days — the involvement of the Internet and social media.
Every footballer these days must cope with the pressure of fans online with respect to not only their performances on the pitch, but also the inevitable intrusion into their personal lives.
In the case at Bayern Munich, Jérôme Boateng had his physical abuse case out in the open and fans had the opportunity to question the horrible act.
While it is laudable that the age of social media ensures that inhumane acts by footballers are not left unquestioned, it is undeniable that it has its own ugly side — ugly abuses and even death threats hurled at the players and their families.
One can remember the times when sporting director Brazzo “Hasan” Salihamidžić and his family were at the receiving end of online abuse and death threats for his failures at the Bayern Munich front office.
In a study conducted by the Alan Turing Institute in association with Ofcom, it was found that Manchester United players Cristiano Ronaldo and Harry Maguire receive the most online abuse, out of all the players in the Premier League.
The numbers on Twitter look ghastly to say the least. Ronaldo received 12,520 abusive tweets in that time, while Maguire received 8,954 — nearly 6,400 more than the next player on the list, Marcus Rashford.
Eight of the 10 players who endured the worst backlash on Twitter played for United last season — Ronaldo, Maguire, Rashford, Bruno Fernandes, Fred, Jesse Lingard, Paul Pogba and David De Gea, when they finished sixth in the league and failed to qualify for the Champions League.
The two other players in these 10 are Tottenham Hotspur marksman Harry Kane and Manchester City record signing Jack Grealish. Kane, with 2,127 abusive tweets makes fifth position and Grealish received 1,538 hateful comments.
The study involved analysis of 2.3 million tweets, of which nearly 60,000 were found to be abusive.
Here’s the scariest part: seven out of every ten Premier League players are victims of online abuse.
The study also showed that there was a peak in number of abusive tweets when Ronaldo signed for United from Juventus last August and when Maguire posted an apology in the aftermath of his side’s derby defeat to City in November.
Kevin Bakhurst, Ofcom’s group director for broadcasting and online content, said, “These findings shed light on a dark side to the beautiful game. Online abuse has no place in sport, nor in wider society, and tackling it requires a team effort.”
PSA: Please do not engage in online abuse. Let’s be kinder to one another. Life isn’t a very easy journey for any one and let’s not make someone else’s journey worse.