Friday 09 December 2022, 13:15

“They forget we are all the same” – Willian recalls anguish of online abuse

  • Willian left Brazil because of online hate

  • Willian supporting FIFA’s No Discrimination campaign during FIFA World Cup™

  • FIFA’s Social Media Protection Service to shield players online during tournament

Very few footballers speak as candidly about their experiences as Willian. The Brazilian forward has been an outspoken critic of online trolls who use social media to direct hateful messages to football players. His recent experience playing in Brazil – where his family were threatened and abused online – forced him to return to England, where he is now playing for Fulham FC.

“It was like, when I had a bad game or when we lost games; straight away they came to my social media, my wife’s social media, and started to say bad words to us and attacked us, attacking my family, my daughters. So after that, I started to speak out, to say that I don’t like it,” Willian told FIFA. “I think they can maybe say to me, “You didn’t have a good game”, or, “You didn’t play [well] in this game”, but don’t go to [my] family to start to attack them, to say something that’s horrible to listen [to], to see.” “That’s why I went sometimes to the police there and spoke to them, to see if they can find these people, the people that stay behind their computers, their phones.”

I was suffering. My family and my daughters were suffering as people were attacking us on social media. That’s why I’m standing now with FIFA.


The Brazilian police did eventually apprehend some of the worst perpetrators but Willian is left scarred by the experience. “It’s difficult because sometimes you don’t even want to play any more,” he said. Because you go and, for example, I was thinking, ‘If I have a bad game, they’re going to come [after] me again, they’re going to come [after] my family again.’ So sometimes, players don’t even want to play because we are there to do our best and sometimes we don’t have a great day.” With the world’s attention focused on the FIFA World Cup™ in Qatar, Willian is throwing his weight behind FIFA’s No Discrimination campaign, aimed at raising awareness to inspire action on discrimination.

Willian on No Discrimination video shoot

“I am supporting this campaign because I was in Brazil a year ago, and I was suffering a lot, and my family were suffering a lot because people started attacking us on social media, attacking my family, my daughters, and that’s why I’m standing now with FIFA to see if you can stop these kind of things that make me feel, sometimes, sad,” said the 34-year-old. Willian is also encouraging the players in Qatar to take advantage of FIFA’s Social Media Protection Service during the FIFA World Cup™. This service is offered to all players to limit their exposure to hate on social media. “I think it will help a lot, for sure, because some players look at it and they don’t care. Some of them look and start being sad, they start to change, the player’s performance starts to go down because of this situation,” he said. “So, I think it will help a lot.”

Willian’s main message to those watching the FIFA World Cup? Remember the players are human beings too. “I think they forget. I think they forget we are all the same,” he said. “I just have a different job. I have daughters, I have a wife. I have my problems, you know, as many people have.” “But I don’t think they think this way. They think we are superheroes, we go on the pitch and we need to show we are strong, we don’t have any problems, everything is perfect. But it’s not. It’s not like this.”