Arsenal's Hector Bellerin 'affected' by on and off pitch abuse
By Husmukh Kerai
Last Updated: 08/09/18 10:56am
Arsenal defender Hector Bellerin admits he has been affected by abuse he has received online and during games.
Bellerin, 23, says he has been forced to "grow thick skin" to cope with insults relating to his passion for fashion and his hairstyle as well as his performances on the pitch.
The Spaniard insists the insults he has had to deal with will not stop him expressing himself on and off the field.
"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."
The right-back says he had been temporarily forced to delete his Twitter application from his phone due to an increase in negative messages he was receiving.
He continued: "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."
The 23-year-old believes it is still impossible for a Premier League footballer to come out as openly gay.
He added: "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."
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