Constantly ridiculed, mocked and abused in his later years at Arsenal, sadly Arsene Wenger experienced a lot of hate and antagonism.
There’s a popular fake quote that is heavily referenced in memes, ‘’We All Make Mistakes In The Heat Of Passion, Jimbo’’. I’m not going to condemn my fellow Arsenal fans or take some kind of moral high ground as we all make mistakes in the heat of passion, but I will focus on the psychology of how verbal abuse can be damaging and I will refer to some examples of Arsenal players and even Arsene Wenger experiencing abuse from Arsenal fans.
Having grown up in and being around this age of social media is great. It’s easy to access information, talk to like-minded people and friends among other benefits. Unfortunately, it’s also made it easier to spread negativity.
Take for example the Wenger Out movement and some of the hatred directed towards Le Prof, or a case of Wilfred Zaha and numerous other players being racially abused online.
What are the effects of Verbal Abuse?
Before the 2017 FA Cup Final, Arsene Wenger stated “I believe there’s a difference between being criticised and being treated in a way that human beings don’t deserve.” Adding that “The lack of respect from some has been a disgrace and I will never accept that. I will never forget it”.
A more recent case can be seen in Granit Xhaka. After the infamous booing incident at home to Crystal Palace, Xhaka was victim to boos, jeers and social media abuse receiving comments such as ”We will break your legs, ”Kill your Wife” and ”We wish that your daughter gets cancer”.
As reported by The Athletic, Granit Xhaka’s teammates were so concerned about his mental situation, that they visited him at his home shortly after the incident.
Shkodran Mustafi has received serious amounts of abuse too, never at actual games but on social media. In a interview with Der Spiegel, Mustafi revealed that ”But the criticism has escalated and become irrational. I have become a target. At some point people even blamed me for a defeat in which I hadn’t played at all.”.
For a certain period of time, Mustafi was a scapegoat for Arsenal fans, someone who was ridiculed, and insulted, labelled as a ‘donkey’. The sad part is when you realise, that this isn’t a one-time thing. There will always be another ‘’Mustafi’’ someone who becomes the new taunted scapegoat.
It’s terrible. In the mentioned Der Spiegel article, Mustafi said in relation to modern football and social media that ”Football has become more inhuman”. Can you argue with him?
There’s a visible pattern. Players and managers in football are defenseless and totally unprotected from the levels of abuse. It shouldn’t be like this. They are humans too, are they not?
Former Arsenal manager Unai Emery said when speaking about his time at Arsenal, ‘Arsenal couldn’t protect me. Truth is, I felt alone’.
Let’s not forget Arsenal fan favourite, Emmanuel Eboue, who was even booed! In a home match in the 2008/2009 season against Wigan, Eboue came on as a substitute and was substituted off later on in the same game, after playing really badly.
Emmanuel Eboue was booed and revealed after in an interview saying how, ‘When you are a footballer and your own fans boo you, it’s very bad, your confidence goes. After that happened I said to Arsene Wenger,’ I don’t want to come in any more for training because I feel bad’. ‘I got back home and I was crying’. Which is very heartbreaking and sad to hear.
We can see the damages and dangers of verbal abuse in the beautiful game, leaving players devastated and hurt so what are the solutions?
What can be done? Solutions.
Heads Up getting involved with the FA, most notably and recently in the 2020 FA Cup final is a good step to raise awareness about mental health in society. But I feel there are currently not enough solutions and preventions in place to deal with verbal abuse, racism or to protect players/managers in Football, and in the Premier League.
This can be seen in a more extreme example, with the ‘’Can there be an openly Gay footballer’’ question. There can’t (right now) be an openly Gay Footballer, as there are not enough protective systems in place.
Former Arsenal player, Olivier Giroud said a while ago that it is ‘’impossible’’ to show homosexuality in Football, and that ”There is still a lot of work in the football world on this subject, to say the least.”
I feel a similar way in that, right now there’s still a lot of work to be done to cut out verbal abuse and to truly protect players and managers.
A young writer who dreams of seeing Arsenal back in the Champions League. Particularly interested in the psyche, mentality and mental health of players – their motivation, the harmful effects of social media, and how the football world affects them.