Willian has added his voice to the growing calls for more action to be taken to tackle racial abuse online while admitting he is sometimes even afraid to look at his phone.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 14: Willian of Arsenal looks on during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Leeds United at Emirates Stadium on February 14, 2021 in London, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Adam Davy - Pool/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 14: Willian of Arsenal looks on during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Leeds United at Emirates Stadium on February 14, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Adam Davy – Pool/Getty Images)

The Arsenal winger has not enjoyed the best time at Arsenal and has come in for extensive criticism from fans. While it’s one thing to be annoyed at a player for not meeting the expectations you set for those wearing the Arsenal shirt, it is quite another to be abusive.

While most players receive some level of unacceptable abuse online, players who are not white receive significantly more – and worse – abuse on a regular basis. Bad performances simply means this intensifies.

I will never stop my fight against racism

With Arsenal launching the #StopOnlineAbuse campaign and Thierry Henry quitting social media until the companies that run the platforms do more to stop abuse happening, Willian was asked about the issue ahead of Arsenal’s game against Slavia Prague in the Europa League.

“If they want to criticise me, it’s no problem,” Willian said. “But when they attack your family with words that I cannot say here, that hurts. It’s a big problem. These people, they have to pay for that.

“I’ve seen some people deleting their social media because of racism and the abuse. Straight away, I want to do that. But then when you think, take a few minutes and relax a little bit more [it changes].

“Yes, sometimes [I am afraid to look at my phone after a match]. We are human. We are professional. We do our best to help the team, we want to win, we never want to lose.

“But sometimes you have a bad day and they come and say words that hurt you. That’s why we want to stop it. Enough is enough. To change it, we need the authorities to act. That’s it.

“I will never stop my fight against racism.

“We have to find a way to change social media. People want to have Instagram, Twitter, Facebook — they need to put their ID, passport or whatever. Then when these things happen, we can catch them, the authorities can catch them. They (the Premier League, UEFA and FIFA) have to support us.”

The issue should be at the forefront of everyone’s minds, nevermore so given the fact Slavia Prague defender Ondrej Kudela picked up an ‘illness’ (before UEFA suspended him anyway) which would have ruled him out of the game in London. Scottish police want to question the defender, when he landed in the UK, regarding claims he racially abused former Arsenal youngster Glen Kamara when they played Rangers in the previous round.

Kudela admitted the UEFA charge of using insulting language and is also the subject of another UEFA investigation into the allegations of racism.

Kamara told ITV, “I haven’t paid much attention to what he’s done after this whole incident but I’ve seen their fans, how they’ve reacted and I’ll get (racist) abuse probably every day on Instagram.

“I had so many different emotions and felt like a victim. I just felt like a little boy (when the incident happened). It was a very weird feeling. Hopefully I never have to feel that again. If I could go back I’d walk off the pitch 100 per cent. My manager was trying to get me off the pitch but I couldn’t hear anybody.’

Asked about calls for Slavia Prague to be kicked out of the competition if the player is found guilty, Arteta replied, “It would depend on what happens in the investigation and the rules.”

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Writer. Feminist. Dreamer. Gooner. Owner of DailyCannon.com, writing about Arsenal since 2008. Sometimes found in the Guardian, Vice.com & elsewhere talking queer issues, politics & football. If in doubt, assume sarcasm.