Monday 25 March 2019

'Personal and nasty' abuse makes it impossible for a Premier League player to come out as gay - Hector Bellerin

Bellerin has developed a ‘thick skin’ after being abused for his lifestyle (@HectorBellerin/Twitter)
Bellerin has developed a ‘thick skin’ after being abused for his lifestyle (@HectorBellerin/Twitter)

Jack Watson

Abusive comments aimed at footballers make it “impossible” for Premier League players to come out as gay, says Arsenal defender Hector Bellerin, who revealed he is affected by comments about his appearance and lifestyle.

Bellerin deleted Twitter on his phone as a result of negative comments he received about his lifestyle after being called a “lesbian” for growing his hair. Throughout the last year, the right-back has faced criticism from Arsenal Fan TV, been told by former Manchester United forward Alan Brazil to “get a steak down him” in response to his vegan diet, and received abuse for his looks and lifestyle.

Being criticised for mistakes on the pitch is one thing, but the Spaniard believes the biggest problem is being abused for the way you look or behave, something which he believes will prevent footballers from coming out as gay.

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

“It is impossible that anybody could be openly gay in football. Some fans are not ready. 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.”

The abuse Bellerin receives has forced him to delete social media apps and develop a thick skin to deal with some of the comments, but even going to these measures does not prevent it from affecting footballers.

“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,” added Bellerin.

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

“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.

“When I played badly, the stick got [was] 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.”

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