Euros, AFCON Players Faced Racist, Homophobic Abuse Online: Study


More than half of all players in Euros and AFCON finals received some form of abuse online, the majority of the abuse was homophobic, racist.

More than half of all players at last year’s European Championship final and Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in February were subjected to discriminatory abuse online, a report published by global football governing body FIFA has revealed.

The independent report used artificial intelligence to track more than 400,000 posts on social media platforms during the semi-finals and final stages of the two football competitions and found the majority of the abuse was homophobic, 40 percent, and racist, 38 percent.

The report found that much of the abuse originated in the players’ home countries and took place before, during and after the matches.

England’s Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka, who are black, were bombed with online abuse after they missed their penalties in a shoot-out against Italy, which decided the final of the European Championship on 11 July after the game turned into a draw had ended.

A substitute from Egypt was the most mistreated player in this year’s AFCON final, the report shows.

“It is our duty to protect football and it starts with the players who bring us all so much joy and happiness through their performance on the pitch,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino said in a statement on Saturday.

“Unfortunately, there is a trend where a percentage of social media posts addressed to players, coaches, match officials and the teams themselves are not acceptable, and this form of discrimination – like any form of discrimination – should not be at home in football. ,” he said.

The report added that abuse on Twitter was constant over the period of the investigation, while Instagram abuse was “event-driven” — such as losing a finale — and more than 75 percent of the platform’s comments contained emojis.

Reuters reached out to Twitter and Instagram for comment.

Ahead of the World Cup starting in Qatar in November, FIFA said it would work with players’ organization FIFPRO to implement a plan to protect teams, players, officials and supporters from social media abuse during international tournaments.

The two agencies will launch moderation tools and provide players with mental health education support and advice at FIFA tournaments.

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