SPORTS DESK : 12 DECEMBER, 2023, 7:24 PM
One in five players at this year’s Women’s World Cup were targeted by online abuse, according to a study released Monday by FIFA and the FIFPRO global players body.
The findings emerged from analysis of 5.1million posts and comments relating to 697 players and coaches taking part in the tournament in Australia and New Zealand.
Football’s world governing body FIFA said in a statement 152 players received targeted “discriminatory, abusive or threatening messaging.”
Nearly 50% of the verified online abuse was homophobic, sexual or sexist in nature.
The analysis also found players at the Women’s World Cup were 29% more likely to receive abuse compared to male players at last year’s World Cup in Qatar.
The findings came from analysis of data produced by FIFA’s Social Media Protection Service (SMPS), which screened millions of posts for abusive content using artificial intelligence software,
Players were given the option of opting into the SMPS, and under the system, abusive messages — totalling 116,820 — were hidden from intended recipients.
The SMPS data showed that the United States women’s team — who have routinely been targeted for online abuse over the years — were subjected to most abuse during the tournament.
FIFA said two players — one from the United States, and one from Argentina, whose identities were not revealed — were targeted above all.
Colombian player Leicy Santos was quoted in the report saying the abuse was harmful to mental health.
“If there is one thing that footballers suffer from the most, apart from losing, it is all the abusive comments – the taunts, the insults,” Santos said.
“Beyond what we do as professional footballers, we are people. Some players are able to put up with the outrageous abuse we receive online, but other players aren’t. It is a very sensitive issue when it comes to mental health.”
FIFA President Gianni Infantino meanwhile vowed no let up in the battle to tackle player abuse.
“There can be no place on social media for those who abuse or threaten anyone, be that in FIFA tournaments or elsewhere,” Infantino said in a statement.
Infantino said that since the SMPS system was first introduced last year, players, teams and officials had been shielded from more than 400,000 abusive comments.
“Discrimination has no place in football and no place in society,” Infantino added. BSS
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