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Homophobic Response to Leaked Saliba Video Shows what is Wrong with Football’s Online Community

By Rob Worthington (Senior Writer)

The end of January and first few weeks of February have marked yet more dark days for football's online community. Figures such as Manchester United's Axel Tuanzebe and Anthony Martial have been subject to racial abuse while referee Mike Dean and his family have found themselves on the end of death threats.

Yesterday, a small minority showed their true colours once again through a homophobic response to a leaked video of William Saliba. The details of the video need not to be mentioned. A 16-year-old Saliba was clearly caught making a mistake, but the response on social media deserves strong condemnation.

What has followed is homophobic abuse of not one but two Arsenal players. Saliba, as one would expect, has been ruthlessly taunted by football fans. Meanwhile, unfortunately and unnecessarily, Hector Bellerin has been brought into the conversation.

The topic concerning Bellerin is a difficult one to approach. Ever since the Spaniard started to grow his hair out in 2018, the right-back has been subject to homophobic gibes both in and away from football stadiums.

The situation was only exacerbated when Bellerin began to show an open interest in the fashion industry. The 25-year-old has since modeled flamboyant outfits at fashion shows, adopted a unique dress-style and has been appointed as the Creative Director for FIFA 21's Volta Football mode. Simultaneously, the online abuse has continued to stream in.

The fact of the matter is that Bellerin has never disclosed his sexual orientation, nor has Saliba. At the end of the day, they are footballers, they have no responsibility to enlighten us with regard to what they get up to in their private life nor should they.

Regardless, if any Arsenal player, or any footballer, were to come out as homosexual, why should it matter? A footballer's sexual orientation does not and never will inhibit their ability to carry out their jobs. As fans, our primary concern should be how players perform on the pitch. Elsewhere, anyone related to football should tread EXTREMELY carefully when commenting on a footballer's off-the-pitch activities.

The stick Hector Bellerin receives for what he gets up to in his spare time is quite frankly unacceptable. We as Arsenal fans should be proud to have a player like Bellerin. He stands up for what he believes in, he holds an interest in a plethora of topics and he firmly places himself outside of stereotypes concerning footballers. Yet, for his bravery, he gets slated instead of commended.

And this outlines everything that is wrong with football's online community. In a day and age where we like to think the world is progressing, a minority group of football fans appear intent on preserving outdated attitudes. As is so frequently said, football is a reflection of society. Unfortunately, the dark elements of society have been clear for all to see in the world of football-related social media in recent weeks.

This is 2021. This is a modern and progressive world. Football fans have to show that they're ready to be part of it.

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