Hector Bellerin has revealed the abuse he faces online and in the Emirates Stadium, much of it from his own fans, just for being himself.
Speaking in an interview with The Times, Bellerin discussed how his colourful outfits and long hair earn him streams of negative comments on his social media, and how that spills over into the stadium on matchdays as well.
“Some of it can get very abusive,” he said. “Most of the abuse is online, but you hear it in the stadium too. People have called me ‘lesbian’ for growing my hair. There are other kinds of homophobic insults. I have learnt to grow a thick skin but it can affect you. Every now and again, you get a bit of self-doubt.
“The problem is that people have an idea of what a footballer should look like, how they should behave, what they should talk about. You act a little differently and you become a target. There is pressure to conform. This is very dangerous. In life, you should be allowed to express yourself. People are happier like this.”
Bellerin is right, of course. He should be able to wear what he wants, dress how he wants and do what he wants, as long as it doesn’t affect his performances on the football pitch.
The ‘focus on football’ shouts we see spouted on social media on a daily basis are complete nonsense. Every player has free time, and spends it doing things they enjoy. For some reason Özil playing PES/FIFA or Aubameyang watching anime isn’t considered a distraction, but Bellerin getting involved in fashion is.
As the player himself points out, it’s simply because his activities don’t fit the norms expected of footballers.
If it were just one or two fans hurling abuse, perhaps it wouldn’t be such a big deal. When it reaches the point that the player deletes the apps from his phone just to get away from it though, it’s clear the problem is more widespread than that.
Hopefully the fans reevaluate the way they’re treating Bellerin, and get back to supporting their own team’s players.