Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson is completely behind this weekend’s social media boycott and detailed the impact racist abuse directed towards Wilfried Zaha has had.
The Eagles’ top goalscorer has been a regular target of racism and last July a 12-year-old boy was arrested for sending abusive messages to the Ivory Coast international on Instagram.
More recent cases involving high-profile footballers have resulted in social media accounts across English football and beyond shutting down from 3pm on Friday until 11.59pm on Monday.
Hodgson, speaking ahead of Saturday’s visit of Premier League leaders Manchester City, said: “We have certainly have had our fair share of abuse to our players.
“In particular Wilf Zaha has been a constant target and on one or two occasions, it has even affected his mental state as one would expect it to.
“In terms of the boycott, I personally am 100 per cent behind it. I really applaud the fact people have decided to make this strong decision to turn their backs on social media, albeit for three days to start off with at least.
“It is a clear statement that people in football are not prepared to accept that anonymous, vicious people can say what they like and abuse people anywhere they like and cause people mental anguish with their tweets.”
While the 73-year-old admitted Zaha has never asked for time off due to the impact of racism, Hodgson did concede he could not comprehend how tough it must be for modern-day players.
“He has never indicated it has hurt him so much mentally he can’t train or play football, but there is no doubt a lot of the things that have gone on have had an effect on him,” the Palace manager added.
“I find it very difficult myself to appreciate how much these players are able to take and how strong they can be in the face of such vile abuse from anonymous people.
“Let’s hope this ban has some sort of effect and the companies that run social media and have become extremely wealthy off the back of it, they do realise they need to do more to regulate their sites.”
Zaha netted in Monday’s 2-1 loss at Leicester to move onto 10 goals for the campaign and equal his previous best goalscoring season of 2018-19.
The 28-year-old will hope to set a new individual record on Saturday but will face soon-to-be title winners City, who may have one eye on next week’s Champions League semi-final second leg with Paris St Germain.
“You always approach games with Manchester City, certainly over the last four years I have been at Crystal Palace, with extreme trepidation because they are that good,” Hodgson insisted.
“But the beauty is we have a chance. We don’t expect it to be easy and we know we will be punished for any mistakes we make, but that is par for the course when you play the best team in the league.
“I am hoping we will even be playing against the best team in Europe because I would love to see them win the Champions League.”
This could be Hodgson’s last battle against Pep Guardiola, with his contract set to expire at the end of the season and no talks over an extension yet.
He was again coy over his future, but added: “As far as my situation, I am very comfortable at the moment. I shall wait and see how things pan out in the next few weeks.
“And then it will be quite easy to make a decision whether or not I want to put myself up for another year’s contract or if I would prefer to move away and if not go into retirement, at least leave the pressures of full-time professional football behind at this level.
“I haven’t made up my mind on that yet, but of course I shall do in the coming weeks.”
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