More than half of the players at the finals of last year’s European Championship and Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) were harassed online because of their race or ethnicity, according to a report from FIFA, the organization that runs soccer around the world.
During the semi-final and final stages of the two competitions, an independent report used artificial intelligence to track over 400,000 posts on social media platforms. It found that most of the abuse was homophobic (40%) and racist (50%). (38 percent ).
It also said that most of the bad behavior came from the home countries of the players and happened before, during, and after games.
Black English players Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, and Bukayo Saka got a lot of hate online after missing their penalty kicks in the European Championship final against Italy on July 11. The game ended in a tie, so a shootout was needed to decide the winner.
The report said that an Egyptian substitute player was the most insulted player at this year’s AFCON finals.
In a statement on Saturday, FIFA President Gianni Infantino said, “It is our duty to protect football, and that starts with the players, who bring us all so much joy and happiness with what they do on the field.”
“Unfortunately, there is a growing trend of offensive posts on social media about players, coaches, match officials, and the teams themselves. This kind of discrimination, like any other kind of discrimination, has no place in football.”
The report also said that abuse on Twitter was constant during the time of the study, but that abuse on Instagram was “event-driven,” like when someone lost a final, and that more than 75% of comments on Instagram were made with emojis.
FIFA said that it would work with FIFPRO to protect teams, players, officials, and fans from abuse on social media during international tournaments. The World Cup starts in Qatar in November.
At FIFA tournaments, players will get help with their education and mental health, as well as tools to help keep the game fair.