The Harmful effects of Verbal Abuse in football – Featuring Arsene Wenger, Granit Xhaka, Mustafi and more..


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?

The Long-term effects of verbal abuse can include fear, anxiety, depression, stress, lead to self-harm and can include Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Very serious issues.

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?


Shkodran Mustafi is another one affected by abuse from Arsenal fans, is this something we should be talking more about as a fanbase?

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.

, , , , , , , , , ,

7 Responses to The Harmful effects of Verbal Abuse in football – Featuring Arsene Wenger, Granit Xhaka, Mustafi and more..

  1. Hari September 3, 2020 at 4:58 pm #

    It is a paradox.

    Sports allow us to let loose.. but how much let loose is possible when you have humans on the other side.

    I always think of modern day contact sport as the heirs to Roman gladiators. Gladiators mostly were reduced to less than human, and their failure(death) celebrated and the very few survivors achieve God status like Messi. The trials have changed, but the mental effect and the treatment has remained the same.

    The human animal is still very much alive. What we needs is a mirror.

    • Raphael dF September 4, 2020 at 4:23 am #

      You’re spot on there, Hari. It’s really a fascinating topic. Just taking a crossover look at MMA/Boxing and then at other sports such as Football, you can still see some of the traits of the Ancient Roman gladiators. Funny enough, the Aztecs actually had a ball game they used to play called Ullamaliztli which is almost like a predecessor to some contact ball sports.

      The Tribalism still exists as well.

  2. allezkev September 3, 2020 at 6:03 pm #

    Booing players isn’t a nice thing to do but it isn’t a new thing either, I well remember Jon Sammels getting barracked terribly by Arsenal fans when I was a lad and it actually contributed to him leaving Highbury for Leicester City.

    I think if you read any history books on Arsenal you’ll find that there were players who were crowd favourites and those who were not and the latter had a hard time of it going all the way back to Woolwich.

    Of course with social media there’s a sinister edge to it now, in days gone by you’d probably be told that you were a load of old rubbish but now you’re told to go and die. Maybe the Tech Companies have a responsibility here because so much of this abuse is undertaken behind a shield of anonymity. Out these types and maybe they’ll think on?

    • Raphael dF September 4, 2020 at 4:34 am #

      Yeah the booing of players certainly isn’t a new thing, it has been around for a while, the Jon Sammels situation which you brought up was really quite insightful. I sure can imagine the players who weren’t crowd favourites getting a hard time at any point in time, which isn’t a nice thing.

      Social media has really added a new dimension to it, issues can be taken to a newer more personal level and can allow abuse/hounding of a person to be sustained or even increased. The Social Media solution argument is an interesting one as well, I’ve seen people and personalities suggest using real ID to verify accounts and to sign up you will need documents/proof, that way someone can’t just make a fake account and get away with saying stuff, there will be consequences.

      • allezkev September 4, 2020 at 11:11 am #

        That would make sense Ralph because the abuse on social media somehow seems a lot more personal.

        I was at the game when Eboue was given a rough time by the crowd and many may disagree but I’ve always felt that part of of antipathy directed at the player was actually borne out of frustration with the manager and club in general.

      • Hari September 4, 2020 at 1:22 pm #

        That is so true. Wenger always meant more than football to me. He was the little guy fighting the big bad Manchester for me.

        True that it went south after perhaps 2007-08. But the abuse was out of hand.

        Social media companies are very naive. They came with the whole free and unrestricted communication ideology underestimating the bad actors. Now they are stuck. If they go all in on moderation, they are going against their own ideology and even if they did, they lack the man power or tech to pull it off.

        It is like an echo chamber, where two people no matter what they are saying can justify each other and appeal to the worst sides of all.

        I for one am really apprehensive about where this is taking us.

  3. Graham Perry September 3, 2020 at 8:03 pm #

    Excellent. Well said. Keep saying it. I often say that some of pour own fans are the worst. Bullying – pure and simple

Your thoughts?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Designed by Batmandela