FIFA, the world’s governing body for football, has published a new report that highlights the rampant increase of hate speech aimed at players during the international tournament. 

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The apex football body scanned over 400,00 posts across Twitter and Instagram around the business end of Euro 2020 and Afcon 2021, and found that over 55 percent of the players were abused. Homophobic (40 percent) and racist (38 percent) slurs were the most prevalent, and most of them came from the home nation of the players.

“Our duty is to protect football, and that starts with the players who bring so much joy and happiness to all of us by their exploits on the field of play,” said FIFA’s president Gianni Infantino.

In the Euro 2020, Bukayo Saka, Jadon Sancho, and Marcus Rashford were the primary targets of the racist abuse after they missed the penalty shootout against Italy in the final. Saka even had to deactivate his Instagram, while Rashford was mercilessly trolled for his community work for poor children during COVID-19.

“With the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and Fifa World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023 on the horizon, FIFA and FIFPro recognise it is important to make a stand and to include what is monitored on social media with what is already being monitored in the stadiums,” added Infantino.

With World Cup just six months away, FIFA has teamed up with FIFPRO, the player’s union, to launch a new AI moderation system that will scan the discriminatory content and restrict its visibility. They will also provide educational guidance to players and coaches on how to navigate through social media in such times.

“Online abuse is a societal issue and as an industry, we cannot accept that this new form of abuse and discrimination affects so many people including our players,” said FIFPro president David Aganzo.

Featured Image: FIFAMEDIA