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Arsenal star Bukayo Saka shares advice for tackling social media hate and online trolls

Bukayo Saka has been targeted by racist online trolls. But the Arsenal star still thinks social media can be a force for good.

In a wide-ranging interview, Bukayo Saka has weighed in on the power - and perils - of social media. CREDIT: Bukayo Saka. Image: Tom Oldham

Social media can be toxic, Arsenal footballer Bukayo Saka has warned – but it can also be a platform to “make a difference”.

Boasting 28 caps and 11 goals for England, Saka is one of the country’s most formidable football talents. At just 21, he has been voted Arsenal player of the year two seasons running and the England team’s top player for 2022.

But this impressive record hasn’t protected him from online trolling.

In an exclusive interview with The Big Issue, the Arsenal star has revealed how it feels when the internet turns against you.  

“It’s hard to filter out the bad stuff sometimes because it can just pop up anywhere,” Saka said.

“But I try not to look for other people’s opinions about me because that’s a dangerous road to go down. I’m aware that it won’t all be good!

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“You have to realise that not everyone on social media has good intentions and you have to be ready for that.”

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In July 2021, Saka missed the penalty that cost England the European Championship at Wembley Stadium. As soon as he switched on his phone, abusive messages started rolling in – a deluge of online hate that lasted several weeks. He was just 19 years old.

In an age of internet anonymity and instant messaging, it’s all too easy for abuse to go unpunished.

But despite the trolling he has received, the footballer is quick to reject the idea that social media is all bad.

“We’re all on it and it helps us stay informed. And so we all talk to each other about the issues we see on there,” he said.

“And then we sometimes choose to use our profile to get involved in certain things and try to make a difference.”

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Along with other members of the England squad, Saka has ‘taken the knee’ in protest against racial injustice. He has also teamed up with the charity Big Shoe to fund 120 life-changing operations for children in Nigeria, the homeland of his parents.

“People say social media is all negative but there are different ways you can use it,” he reflects.

To read The Big Issue’s full interview with Bukayo Saka, buy the new magazine – out today.

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