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Saturday, April 13, 2024

The reason behind my decision to remove my social media posts following the AFCON final match

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While some Nigerians seemed to have accepted the Super Eagle’s disappointing loss against host nation Ivory Coast at the AFCON final match in good faith, others have taken out the disappointment on some key players by bullying and blaming them for the match’s outcome.

Ivory Coast defeated Nigeria by 2-1 in a keenly contested match that had Nigerians initially confident of winning the trophy. Nigeria last won the AFCON tournament in 2013 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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Fulham midfielder Alex Iwobi has become a significant target of cyberbullying due to what Nigerians perceive as unsatisfactory midfield performance.

Many Nigerians blamed him for a woeful performance, leading to many threats and insults on his Instagram page. It resulted in the 27-year-old deleting over a hundred posts.

His family members, including Nigerian football legend Jay-Jay Okocha’s daughter, Daniella Okocha, have not been spared either. However, Ms Okocha managed to handle the situation by putting the bullies in their place.

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Iwobi, a former Arsenal star, alongside other Super Eagles players, arrived in Nigeria on Monday at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport and will be treated to a heroic and grand reception at the Presidential Villa Abuja by President Bola Tinubu today.

Super Eagles Squad During an interactive section with the Minister of Sports Development, John Enoh, on Monday, he spoke about cyberbullying and how he has handled numerous threats from Nigerians.

The recorded session was posted

on Brila FM’s Instagram page on Monday.

Iwobi disclosed that he took himself off social media immediately after the final match as a result of unpleasant messages, abuse and threats directed towards him.

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“For me, I have taken myself out of social media after yesterday’s game,” he said.

PREMIUM TIMES checked the player’s Instagram page and found that no post remained on the page.

Minister of Sports Development

Mr Enoh, who led the Super Eagles back home after the AFCON final match against Ivory Coast, told Iwobi, who is Jay Jay Okocha’s nephew, that he is aware of the cyberbullying and attacks he (Iwobi) has received since Sunday night.

The minister unequivocally denounced any behaviour aimed at bullying or harming Nigerian athletes, emphasising the ministry’s concern regarding the treatment of the country’s sportsmen and women, especially after a defeat.

The minister said: “I am aware of what is happening on social media, and as a ministry, this isn’t the first time we will make a statement against bullying, not just you but our sportsmen and women in general who are exposed to bullying due to the outcome of competitions. We are concerned about how our sportsmen and women are treated”.

“You did your best for your country, and I am proud of you. The leadership and the rest of the country are proud of you. Those who are not are in the far minority and do not speak for the rest of our country, so just be strong.

“You did your best, and you are part of a team that brought home a silver medal, which the country last won at AFCON 2000, 23 years ago. You put in your best, thank you very much.”

Cyberbullying

On Sunday, 11 February, social media went agog after the Super Eagles’ 2-1 loss to the Ivory Coast in the AFCON 2023 final.

Critics blamed Iwobi, a Fulham midfielder, attributing the Super Eagles’ loss to his performance.

Iwobi, who was substituted wirh Alhassan Yusuf in the 79th minute, has become the butt of online jokes and criticism on social media. Even before he was eventually replaced, he had been trolled endlessly, escalating into personal attacks post-removal.

Despite an unbeaten run from the group stage to the final, the Super Eagles fell short of clinching the trophy against the Elephants of Ivory Coast.

Ahmed Musa, other players condemned cyberbullying

Nigerian footballer Ahmed Musa, along with other Super Eagles players, have condemned the cyberbullying targeted at one of their own.

Musa urged Nigerians to cease cyberbullying directed at Iwobi, noting that it breaches decency and constitutes a serious crime.

He criticised the hypocrisy of claiming football unites while engaging in such behaviour.

He said, “Losing a game is undoubtedly challenging, but targeting a single player for the team’s shortcomings is unfair and unjust. We win as a team, and we lose as a team. Alex gave his all on the field, just like every squad member.

“Instead of spreading negativity, let’s show genuine love and support to our players. They need our encouragement now more than ever. Let’s uplift each other and stand united, both in victory and defeat.”

Musa, Omeruo, and Osimhen urged Nigerians to offer more support to the Super Eagles after losses.

Omeruo condemned cyberbullying, stating the team’s unity in victory and defeat.

Likewise, Osimhen, a Napoli striker, emphasised the importance of fans’. behavior change, highlighting the team’s collective responsibility in winning and losing.

Asisat Oshoala too

Asisat Oshoala, a Nigerian professional footballer who plays as a striker for NWSL club Bay FC, accused Tunde Ednut and Verydarkman of cyberbullying the Fulham midfielder.

The former Barcelona striker labelled Ednut and Verydarkman as fools, highlighting their lack of success in their respective fields and their audacity to bully someone performing better.

Oshoala, also a victim of cyberbullying, empathized with Iwobi and highlighted the consequence of such actions, mainly when directed at an individual.

“Tunde is such an asshole! Guys contribute money for a giveaway, and he’s pretending to be a god. Old fool. Who the heck do you think you are? Stupid fool. You failed in your field and gave up, yet you dare criticize someone striving for improvement. You should have continued if it were that easy—useless idiot.

“If Tunde has issues with women, all he does is body shame them. There’s nothing inside that coconut head of his. We welcome constructive criticism, but that guy is a damn bully.

“He’ll use a giveaway as a cover-up again, as usual—Agbaya buruku. I’ve been a victim of cyberbullying, and I know damn well how it feels, especially when you’re being singled out, like the whole team lost.

Jay Jay Okocha reacts

Reacting to cyberbullying aimed at his nephew, Mr Okocha prayed for Nigeria and for those (Nigerians) who harbor nothing but hatred and fail to see the good in others.

He stated the importance of treating others as one wishes to be treated, especially when one’s efforts seem to go unrecognised.

“I pray for my country, Nigeria and the people that can only hate and see nothing good in others; when effort counts for nothing, treat people the way you want them to treat you; all we have is this life is each other.

“We love you, Alexander Iwobi, and we keep going no matter what they say; the lord is good all the time, and we trust that he will be done in our lives, amen.”

Others also faced cyberbullying

The newspaper gathered that Mr Iwobi isn’t the first Super Eagles player cyberbullied by Nigerians.

After the Super Eagles’ disappointing exit from the 2021 AFCON in Cameroon, goalkeeper Maduka Okoye was cyberbullied.

Unhappy Nigerians blamed the starting goalkeeper for failing to save a crucial shot from Tunisia’s Youssef Msakni, leading to the team’s 1-0 defeat in the round of 16.

The abuse prompted him to withdraw from the international team due to online threats to his life and family.

First-choice goalkeeper Francis Uzoho has also faced threats and criticism for his performances in the AFCON and FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

This criticism made Uzoho to deactivate his social media accounts and consider taking a break from the Super Eagles, influenced by Okoye’s experience.

READ ALSO: AFCON: Musa appeals to Nigerian football fans to stop Iwobi cyberbullying

Nigerian football fans expressed disappointment with Uzoho’s goalkeeping style, highlighting specific errors like conceding a long-range free-kick against Zimbabwe on 19 November 2023.

As a result, Coach José Peseiro scouted for a new goalkeeper, Stanley Nwabali, who plays for South African club Chippa United.

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