Bellerin ‘affected’ by abuse

Arsenal and Spain full-back Hector Bellerin admits he has been ‘affected’ by abuse and has been called ‘lesbian’ for his long hair.

Bellerin was one of the biggest targets of Arsenal’s disappointing 2017-18 campaign, which saw him fall out of contention for Spain’s World Cup squad, and the Catalan confessed he was forced to grow a ‘thick skin’.

“Some of it can get very abusive. Most of the abuse is online, but you hear it in the stadium, too,” he told The Times.

“People have called me ‘lesbian’ for growing my hair. There are other kinds of homophobic insults.

“I have learnt to grow a thick skin but it can affect you. Every now and again, you get a bit of self-doubt.

“The problem is that people have an idea of what a footballer should look like, how they should behave, what they should talk about.

“You act a little differently and you become a target. There is pressure to conform. This is very dangerous. In life, you should be allowed to express yourself. People are happier like this.

“It can be a blessing and a curse. When I first came into the ranks at Arsenal, the expectations were very low so people were often impressed when I played well.

“But then, when I played badly, the stick got crazy. The worst was a year and a half ago. A lot of people say nice things but it is natural to focus on the bad.

“For a while, I deleted the apps. Later, I decided to go back on. Twitter is a great source of information. Every day I am learning to deal with abuse in a better way.”

Consequently, the 23-year-old does not believe there can be an openly-gay player at the top level of football.

“Some fans are not ready,” he argued.

“When it happened in rugby with the Welsh player [Gareth Thomas], people respected the situation. The fans respected his decision.

“In football, the culture is different. It can be very personal, very nasty, particularly for players from the opposition team.”

Tags Arsenal England Hector Bellerin Premier League Spain
La Liga - Club News