Bernd Leno says he has learnt to ignore social media abuse ever since someone told him to ‘do it like Enke’ following a bad performance while he still played in Germany.
Robert Enke, a close friend of Per Mertesacker, played in goal for Hannover, Benfica, Borussia Moenchengladbach and Barcelona before taking his own life at the age of 32 following a long-standing struggle with depression.
The Germany international’s death in 2009 sent shockwaves around the sport and has since led to the founding of the Robert Enke Foundation, a charity that deals primarily with the mental health of players.
Citing the example, Leno made clear that in good times and bad he stays offline knowing full well there are ‘so many stupid people’ eager to drag him down.
“Of course I have a lot of experience with that, here and also in Germany. There was one thing that kept in my mind, it was crazy,” Leno told Sky Sports News.
“I had a very bad game and then one guy on social media said to me ‘do it like Enke’.
“Since I read this I realise that there are so many stupid people on social media. That is the reason I don’t read it even when everything is good. I don’t need that, it doesn’t make me better, it is wasting time.
“There are so many fake people that hide behind their computers to make you feel bad. Many times with racism, abuse to families, I don’t like it, I don’t read it. It affects your life, what is the point?”
Leno’s revelation comes on the same day that a study revealed Granit Xhaka was the subject of horrific abuse, including racial abuse by some purported Arsenal season ticket holders, during a 30-day period either side of his red card against Burnley in December.
Analysis by Signify, a data science company, also highlighted homophobic abuse aimed at Hector Bellerin after his support for the Rainbow Laces campaign, to promote equality, also in December.
Two weeks ago, the Premier League said tech companies “need to do more” to help battle online abuse. Since then pressure on social media platforms has continued to intensify.
In response to the report, an Arsenal spokesman said: “We all need to work together to drive online abuse out of our game and off our social networks.
“The effect on individuals can be very deep and we work closely with our players and staff to help them deal with the impact. This includes support from sports psychologists and our social media team.
“As a club, one of the biggest challenges we face is identifying the perpetrators and linking them directly to our season ticket or membership databases. When we do have that information, we take the strongest possible action. This includes reporting to the police and membership bans from our club.
“Ultimately we all have to work together to stop the abuse and we fully support the Premier League’s recent statement calling on social media platforms to take more action to prevent abuse appearing online, including requiring all users to be subject to a verification process.”
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