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Confronting Abuse in Football

Former Barcelona star Dani Alves has been sentenced to four and a half years in prison after he raped a woman in a Barcelona nightclub. His conviction is the latest in a concerning trend of male players finding themselves embroiled in allegations of violence towards women. For football to develop and progress, the sport must ask itself what it can do to put an end to the crisis.


There has been a number of high-profile footballers involved in domestic abuse cases in recent years, perhaps none more infamous than Mason Greenwood. The accusations of rape and assault levelled against him were dropped in October 2022, but photos and videos posted by then and current partner Harriet Robson led many to form their own opinions on the case. As a result of the controversy, Greenwood was suspended by Manchester United and is currently on loan at Spanish club Getafe. United are currently undecided on what to do with him at the end of the loan, but what is certain is that the footballing community will be split on the verdict. The winger still has his supporters, with people wanting to see him return to the club and continue his career. Unsurprisingly, the reasons for backing him seem almost never to be his potential innocence, rather because he is a gifted player who could improve almost any team. It is truly a damning indictment on the state of football that some fans would be happy to see Greenwood play for their club, regardless of whether the accusations levelled against him are true.


Centre back Jerome Boateng was found guilty of assaulting his ex-girlfriend in 2021, but that didn’t stop his old club Bayern Munich from inviting him back to training in 2023.Their reasoning? They were short on defenders. As players returned from injury, they opted not to re-sign him but, once again, a decision which to most is out of the question has been considered by a huge team. It seems that clubs will go far as they can to maintain a pristine image, but they draw the line at hindering results. Football fans have long complained that the sport they love is becoming more and more money-oriented and forgetting its core principles. The ruthless pursuit of results and trophies is clearly leading clubs to abandon any notion of ethics and, sooner rather than later, there must be a shift in the culture to ensure football remains a sport for all.


The growth of the women’s game in the last decade has been nothing short of remarkable, but football cannot be truly universal until the current issues are eradicated from the men’s side. There is a clear trend within the players accused, as Greenwood, Antony, Benjamin Mendy, and Lucas Hernández were all 25 or under when their allegations first surfaced. Evidently, more must be done to ground young players as they begin their career, particularly as their wages and profile increase. All football fans are guilty of placing players on pedestals at one time or another, which exacerbates the issue further. As sports psychologists become increasingly commonplace, it is crucial that the next generation of players are adequately equipped to handle the pressure and stardom that comes with being a professional footballer.




 Image: Wikimedia Commons

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