Arsenal winger Willian admitted he was afraid to go online after games and considered deleting his social media accounts as a result of online abuse.
In February, the 32-year-old shared several threads with his nine million Instagram followers in which he had been racially abused and joined a growing list of players facing such discrimination this season.
Last month, the Gunners launched their own #StopOnlineAbuse action plan aimed at providing team members and staff with support in addition to a clearer avenue for reporting abuse following incidents involving Nicolas Pepe, Granite Xhaka, Eddie Nketiah, Hector Bellerin and director Mikel Arteta.
The Premier League is also working with the UK government and other clubs to resolve the issue, but that hasn’t stopped former Arsenal striker Thierry Henry from shutting down his profiles due to a lack of action.
When asked to describe his reaction to personal abuse, Willian said, “Right now I want to delete my social media accounts. I have seen some people delete their social media because of racism and abuse. But then when you think about it, take a few minutes and relax a little more [it changes]. But the first reaction is to delete. “
Asked whether he was ever afraid to pick up his phone after games, Willian added: “Sometimes, to be honest. We’re human. I want to understand who these people think they are to come talk to us like. We are. We do our best to help the team, we always want to win, we never want to lose.
“But we have our bad days, sometimes we don’t feel good, we have problems like everyone else, personal problems, families. So sometimes you’re not having a good day, you have a bad day. and they come and say those kinds of words that hurt you. That’s why we want to stop it. Enough is enough.
“I was in this situation a month ago, I don’t remember exactly. It was very difficult for me because I have a lot of screens on my phone and I saw a lot of horrible words against my family for example. . After that I say to myself ‘enough is enough, I have to try something and take against the racists, the online abuse’. I am proud because the club is doing this and helping us a lot. I will never stop my fight against racism.”
Willian joined calls on social media companies and football authorities to take tougher action, adding: “We as players can’t do much. We do what we do. we can do. We point it out, we share it with you guys and we talk But we want some action.
“We do not see any action by the authorities in this case and we must [find] a way to stop it because when people say horrible words about you and your family, it’s not good. They can criticize us for what we do on the ground. I have no problem with that, no problem at all. If they want to criticize me, what I do on the pitch, if I have to play better, if I have to train more, I will accept. But when they come and attack you with horrible words, your family, it’s not good. We have to stop it and try a way to stop it.
“I think we have to find a way to change the social media profile. I think people want to have Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, they have to put their ID card, passport or whatever. And then when these things happen , we can catch them, the authorities can catch them This is the action we want.
Willian has come under heavy criticism for his performances since joining Arsenal on a three-year contract as a free transfer from Chelsea last summer. The Brazilian is yet to score in 30 appearances for the club and has fallen down the pecking order behind the emerging duo Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe in addition to the January loan signed by Martin Odegaard.
“Lots of ups and downs,” he said of Arsenal’s inconsistent form. “We know that. I’m the first to admit it and I’m not having a good season. Of course the last few games I’ve played I was playing a lot better but I think it wasn’t enough.
“I think as a team we have to stay together until the end of every game and continue game after game. We have a great opportunity to win something at the end of the season so for now until the end, we have to go there together and play every game as a final. “
Arsenal face Slavia Prague in Europa League quarter-final first leg on Thursday and have to plan without a key defender Kieran tierney, who now has to fight to replay this season and be part of Scotland’s Euro 2020 squad.
Tierney will be out for four to six weeks due to a knee problem and Arteta said: “The delay will be as follows, it could have been worse because the action looks pretty scary but it looks a bit scary. little better and the damage wasn’t that bad so in the end, that’s not the bad news we might have expected.
“We’re going to have to go day in and day out and see how Kieran feels then when he gets close to playing time and how he feels, we’ll make that decision.”