Bullying versus the right to demonstrate a free opinion (Xhaka)

Bullying versus the right to demonstrate a free opinion (Xhaka) by Jon Fox

Many, probably most, Arsenal fans believe that our team is not functioning as well right now as the sum of its talents ought to function, given the undoubted number of special talents we have in the squad. Many articles and posts have been aired with numerous reasons for this state we are in. There are a multitude of reasons in my opinion, and the prime one is that our owner has little ambition for our club, other than to see it maintain its financial status as his asset. Thus funds have been limited on badly needed top level players, most especially in defence. There can surely not be a single Gooner who regards our defence as any better than mediocre; most Gooners would use a far more pejorative word than “mediocre” were they able to express their freely held personal opinion. Some would use “rubbish” and I would be firmly among those number.

There are a number of other suggested reasons also though. First among them is that Emery is not up to the job; that he picks the wrong start elevens, seems not to be a motivator like Klopp and Guardiola or even Lampard, and simply put, has failed. I agree with this view and have several other criticisms of him too. His pitiful attempts to improve, even by a jot, the poor defence Wenger left behind have failed miserably. His insistence on a dangerous ‘playing out from the back’, given the donkeys he picks at CB is, IMO, idiotic and doomed to fail. The final chief reason is the players themselves, many of whom seem to have never met before, so shapeless and slow paced is the general play. If you think “slow paced” one name leaps out like salmon from a pond; that of Xhaka! Pace is to him as a deodorant is too a tramp; non-existent. Yet Emery made this pedestrian and rash player our club captain! Can anyone please explain why?

My question is then is this: Is it or is in not an unalienable fan right to verbally express, even during the game itself, this forceful opinion directly at such and such a player? Either it is or is not the fans right. There is no third way. If it is decided that such a right should not be allowed in this age of easily hurt feelings,”possibly leading to life trauma, clinical depression and even possible suicidal feelings of the incumbent” then in my opinion live football with crowd’s present is dying before our eyes. That phrase in quote marks is not mine; it is a copied from a thesis on humanity and its direction of travel from which I read, with mounting amazement, quite recently. I utterly reject its harmful conclusion. It is in effect saying that all free opinion and personal criticism of any person is bad, harmful and wrong. In fact, were we to follow that route, we might as well all lose the power of spoken and written speech, so fallacious is that argument?

To conclude, I offer this thought. Vicious bullying to deliberately hurt someone is wrong and always wrong. But fairly expressed free opinion is our unalienable right and we give it up at the peril of all progress in mankind. What happened to Xhaka on Sunday was free expression, borne out of total frustration by the crowd of his constant poor performances, and of his being picked at all by our manager So, his feelings were hurt, and he showed it in full public view. Poor chap!

Perhaps, had he the intellect any club captain should have, he would now reflect on how he behaved, on why the crowd acted as they did and on what he can start to do now to repair his self-respect which has been hurt. Personally, I have long thought that for the club’s sake he should be sold as soon as possible. But my message is if you can’t stand the heat, then stay out of the kitchen. All winners CAN stand that heat. Until all our players can do likewise, we will never again win titles.

Jon Fox


  1. I agree that bullying happens when someone deliberately hurts another person. Or when someone criticizes another person negatively although the other person doesn’t do any mistake

    A bully is also someone that uses inappropriate words such as stupid and idiot to attack another person and usually he does it with a group of bullies

    There is no doubt that Xhaka got bullied sometimes, but he also got some positive criticisms. As you said, all winners can withstand the heat, especially when they are paid millions to do so

  2. John, You have, I believe, drawn an important distinction between expressing an opinion and abuse; however, you have made no attempt to actually sketch the lone that separates them.

    It has long been the response of the bully to emasculate the victim by suggesting that he should not be offended with comments “aww poor baby”, but surely the moral judgement of an action does not lie in the response but in the intention of the act. You allude to this by mentioning the “intentional” element behind hurt caused, but it’s entirely possible to be a d*ck if you simply NEGLECT the potential harm caused with an action.

    In the case of Xhaka, and as I have mentioned before, fan abuse (note, not constructive criticism – as many, including myself, have dealt Xhaka) in the way it happened at the weekend is not helping anyone. It is making Arsenal fans look toxic, which affects potential signings and current player happiness; it creates disunity, as Bellerin hinted out; but most important it was an emotionally unintelligent way of expressing frustration.

    A Kantian might argue that actions should be judged on consequences, in which case, what’s the consequence here? Nothing good.

    Protest is fine. Abuse is not. I hope future articles and comments can really debate the distinction rather than just forcing their opinions onto others.

    And for the record, yes, Xhaka’s actions were also dumb af.

  3. Were fans right to ironically cheer his substitution? probably not as it served no purpose, but it wasn’t abuse.

    Were they right to start booing him because he was slow to get off the pitch? Not really but it’s understandable and wasn’t abuse.

    Was Xhaka right to tell fans to fekk off? Probably not but considering he hadn’t had a terrible game and all the actual abuse he has been taking (insults/threats to his family, objects thrown at his car with his wife inside etc) is it perhaps a justifiable response? I think so.

    Was he right to throw the Captains armband on the floor at Aubas feet – not one bit and he should never wear it again.

    Did he actually throw the shirt on the floor? From what I saw on TV it was still in his hand as he went off camera 🤷‍♂️

    Should he apologise? For the arm band? most definitely, won’t make amends but needs to be done. For telling fans to fekk off? Nope – don’t give it if you can’t take it imo. IF he did throw the shirt on the floor too then can’t see anyway back from that and he should be sold as soon as the window opens imo.

    1. Not an attack on you MH, just a general view of this whole crazy situation… I think it’s ridiculous we have to draw comparisons between objects being thrown at a players family to throwing an armband on grass. I can see why our fanbase has such a bad reputation. We are so immature (admittedly I can be on this site too. Have never posted to a players social media tho). End of the day this is just a game. If there are people going online making threats at people and their family, and throwing stuff at peoples cars, THEY ARE THE PROBLEM! I care WAY more about that than an armband being thrown onto the ground. The two should NOT even be compared.

      1. Completely agree RSH and I wasn’t comparing the two (apologies if it came across that way).
        I don’t think Xhaka should wear the armband again because he threw it away, and rightly p*ssed off or not, I personally expect more from our Captain, although in all fairness I also know how easy it is to throw something when your in a foul one and it’s in your hand, the guy is only human 🤷‍♂️
        That said I’d also fully support those idjits posting abuse on social media or throwing items at his car to get a lifetime ban from the club – they are, as you rightly put it, a much bigger problem.

        1. I totally agree with RSH, you have to draw a very heavy “line in the sand” about abuse and physical attacks on a player’s wife, family and property.
          Any normal human being would return aggression and not turn the other cheek, if their family is threatened.

  4. John, to answer your question to us/me, I believe we have the right to free speech and to express ourselves in any way we see fit.

    Having said that for me, it lacks common sense to chastise a player for a poor performance if that poor performance is a result of a lack of ability and not a result of a lack of trying. Senderos? etc

    The manager and club should get chastised for buying and selecting players with a lack of ability. It makes little sense to criticize someone for a lack of ability. It also makes no sense to criticize Xhaka for being selected by Emery. Should he refuse to play because he sucks?

    I booed him and chastised him for his lack of effort coming off the pitch and there is no excuse for that. But I would not boo a player for missing a penalty because I think they all try to make them.

    So for me, the lack of effort is the only reason to boo a player during a game. A poor performance resulting from a lack of ability but not a lack of trying I will never boo during a game.

  5. The fans are not the only ones with the right to express themselves. In fact that do so to the point of abuse, such as they have against Xhaka and his family online, with zero repercussions. Xhaka also has that right to both freely express himself, and as well as respond in kind to what he considered to be uncalled for abuse from the fans. Good on him for not apologising for his “reply”… Childish fans wanna dish it, but but get all bum hurt when it bites back at em…

  6. To compare booing to bullying is somewhat hysterical. Maybe it’s just another sign of the PC culture that we live in I guess. I have been bullied, and I can promise you that booing is barely an issue.

    Apparently the real abuse Xhaka has been receiving has been on social media. On one hand I have sympathy, because some horrible things are being said, not only about him, but about his family as well. This is vile, and speaks volumes about some people. On the flip side, it’s his own fault for being on social media in the first place. Even the most loved people get horrendous abuse online from trolls, but it can be easily avoided by just coming off it. If you’re going to put yourself on these social media platforms, then you can’t surprised or upset when you get hate.

    As I said before, booing is part and parcel of being a sports person. We see it across most sports, and even the likes of Messi and Ronaldo have been booed. I think Arsenal fans must be the highest paying football fans in the world (especially when you factor in travel expenses in the UK), and we’re now saying they do not have the right to express themselves?

    Remember that Xhaka only exists as a footballer, because of football clubs that only exist because of the fans.

    1. Third Man, I am with you and only the need not to write too fully, prevented me delving further into that difference my article related to. I too see on field booing as our fan right. Family and personal vicious social media abuse IS bullying and should be acted against legally. It is easily provable in law and if it happened to my family I would immediately turn to the law and the civil law too.

      1. I completely forgot mention about the law side of things, as you rightly say. Hopefully some of these abusers/trolls can be brought to justice. We’ve seen horrible stories, often with school children, committing suicide because of constant online abuse.

        My overall point was that it’s extremely easy to avoid this online abuse, and that’s by coming off social media. Ironically, it’s actually the abused that has all the power. Either don’t read the comments, or come off altogether. It’s so sad for our society that so many seem almost addicted to these platforms.

        1. But I do not think anyone , because of threats and online intimidation, should have to choose to leave social media. The bulliers and NOT the bullied should be kicked off social media. There is an important principle at stake here. No one should ever hav eto change their lifestyle becaus of how unlawful bullies behave. The bullies should be prosecuted and until thi si routinely done, it will continue unabated. I do NOT think Xhaka being booed as he came off constitutes bullying; that is free and fair fan opinion and they have the right to thus express it. Which they rightly did, in my view.

      2. But Jon Fox, you are the father of all abusers, there is no word you not use to describe someone who doesn’t share your opinions, your words are vile and intimidating. But am not sure you are the same Jon fox.

        1. Pat, My article was written to try to discuss with people of your extreme views the difference between forceful but fair opinion on the one hand and of deliberate bullying on the other. I never bully; I use forceful and thought out language when posting. I have that advantage of being a free and deep thinker, unlike some who merely quickly react without deep thinking about the nuances of language; our precious and fully descriptive English language that some many fail to use or even to understand to its fullest.

          1. No Jon Fox, you are indeed extremely abusive and your Language sometimes has bulling in it. Just last week you took abused Eddie so much. I wanted to comment and support him but my internet was acting up. Most people on this website are very reasonable and speak to others with caution and respect, but that is not you. You are very unpleasant to argue with and most times you descend to personal abuse. Remember I had to abuse you throughly last year. You language to wards Ozil is despicable and indecent. I think you shouldn’t preaching what you don’t practice. You have called Ozil all sorts of despicable name. I don’t abuse our players and I won’t because I love them. The problem is with the coach who likes to sow seeds of discord, and he doesn’t know the job at least until our last result.

    2. You have the right to express your feeling and the player should just shut up.
      Or he himself is human like you and is entitled to retaliate back using his own freedom of expression.
      But why then act like spoilt brats when he himself fights back?

      Can have it both ways you know.

  7. Jon, seems you’ve only told one side of the story. There’s really nothing from Xhaka’s point of view and everything is about the fans frustrations. Of course we are all frustrated and are free to express how we feel, but the same has not been afforded to Xhaka, who has been personally verbally abused and had death threats online, his pregnant wife has been heckled about this stuff as well. Unless you know what it’s like to be treated like this and see your family members being abused by strangers, maybe we are not seeing the full picture and reflecting on WHY Xhaka feels this way about some of the Arsenal fans and isn’t apologizing.

    Bottom line is yes, Xhaka should not have been made captain, but just like you are not isolating Arsenal’s fans frustration into a single incident, and making it more of a buildup of frustration, the same has happened with Xhaka’s relationship with the fans. Let’s be honest, people can only take so much until they say something back, and Granit has been silent while being abused for so long. I dont blame him for getting upset. End of the day, majority of this mess is of Unai’s making anyways.

    1. Yes you are outlining thereason for frustration on both sides. My article however was trying to argue where the line actually lies between fairly expressed fans opinion on the one hand and bullying ,on the other. Personal and family intimidation and threats on line are clearly bullying; booing and ironic cheering at the stadium is NOT. THAT IS MY TAKE. People vary in where they draw the line and that is to be expected,humans being what we are.

      1. I think it should’ve been mentioned in the article, Jon. Instead you chalk it up to Xhaka just having his feelings hurt when we know it was an accumulation of incidents that led to what happened. And when so many fans HAVE crossed that line for a WHILE, I don’t think you can be too upset at Xhaka’s reaction.

        1. RSH, Surely you miss the point of my article. I was trying to establish where the line exists between fan opinion, expressed during the game or afterwards, on the one hand, AND on the other hand what constitutes bullying. It is clear that there will be many shades of opinion as to where that vital line ought to be drawn. This is all my article was about; the headline explained that clearly. I do not doubt that Xhaka was upset, as too were those booing him and I suggest many others who were not booing him too. But please realise I was entirely trying to explore where the difference lay and no more than that. Of course there are many other articles on the Xhaka situation, as one would expect and some have explored other facets of the whole Xhaka debate,. There is room for all, would you not agree? It is a long and complex debate and space limits what any one writer can say about the whole situation. I would gladly have written a great deal more but I know that concentration of some is limited and many want only polarised debate. I ONLY TRIED TO SEPARATE THOSE POLES.

      1. Thanks Ken. I just didn’t enjoy what happened this weekend and totally understand why Xhaka reacted the way he did. Same with the Ozil abuse at the World Cup I sided with him. I’m sure it’s not the first time his “commitment” to the German side has been questioned. Very often we get heated about this stuff and forget these are still people (me included), even if they are living lives we can only dream of.

  8. I don’t see anyone questioning the actual RIGHT to boo any player, manager, owner or whatever.
    That right stands without any doubt.
    But so does the right to question that behaviour and to point out, it may in fact be counterproductive.

  9. Interesting article JF wether we like it or not freedom of speech is here to stay, Xhaka as club captain should be bigger than this and have taken it on the chin,every time a player puts on a shirt and walks onto a pitch he is opening himself up for opinion,I see booing as no more than people showing their displeasure in poor performance of which Xhaka has given more than most and not bullying or abuse,other players have suffered similar treatment in the past and will in the future, he now needs to man up and get on with it one way or another,however i think it will now be difficult for him as he wasn’t very popular before this and the fans will not forget it.

    1. Thommogun58, I think in the case of Xhaka, the ironic cheers and clapping when he was substituted last Monday was just “the straw that broke the camel’s back”. The abuse of his wife on social media and attacks on his car were bigger issues.
      I get very annoyed when keyboard warriors say anonymous vile things about people and their families, which they would be too gutless to say face to face.

  10. Jon, congrats on a well written article – some observations from me.

    Being a season ticket holder doesn’t give me the automatic right to abuse our players – it gives me the privilege to attend games and abide by the rules of the club.
    I know you are not saying that, but some on here seem to believe that is the case.

    Booing has been part of the culture in our country, especially at sporting events – -as is whistling to show displeasure in other parts of the footballing world.
    It has never been seen as an act of bullying and nor should it, it’s purely a spontaneous act to show displeasure/frustration.
    The difference between today and our early years is the personal abuse that booing is part of and the seemingly universal view that we are entitled to do this, with no obligation to it’s consequences.

    Where I see the snowflake society, that you mention so often, is when an individual rsponds to these actions in kind – suddenly the abusers become affronted that this is allowed.

    Xhaka was wrong in his actions on Sunday, but his actions seemed like the last straw on the camels back to me, following the disgusting, personal attacks on his wife and family.

    I also have to say Jon, that your own retoric regarding some of the players you regard as “dross” has also been, at the very least, within that ballpark, not only regarding their footballing abilities, but there personal life styles, attitudes and choices they make!!

    We ALL have been guilty of some kind of abuse on here, whether against players, managers or other individual posters and
    I certainly hold my hands up to this.

    As RSH says, there are always two sides to a story and not recognising that fact, just continues the problem.

    I hope Xhaka chooses the right thing for him and his family (on a personal note) and for him and our club (going corwarx) in the future.

    Excellent thought provoking article – too close to home for all of us I would suggest Jon?

    1. Ken, Thanks for a typically considered and well argued reply. I am bound to say that I do not accept that I bully people; that would be a dreadful and wrong suggestion and untrue. What I DO use is forceful and to the point language and my whole article’s main theme was about where does that line between fair and forceful opinion lie, on the one hand, and of what is deliberate bullying, on the other hand. You will note I use the term “deliberate” and there is good reason for this. It is my contention that in this day and age many esp young people, are simply too easily hurt, mentally frail and what would never have been remotely called bullying in OUR youth is so easily and WRONGLY termed bullying today. My “crime” if any, is to refuse to play the game of being afraid to moderate direct opinions in case it is seen by any – usually young person – as “bullying”. I strongly contend that all I stand for in life is against ALL bullies of any type and nationality in any walk of life. I have stood all my life against the powerful, usually also personally vastly rich people, who use their wealth and influence against ordinary less financially “strong” folk. There are many forms of bullying I suggest to you and to others and I also suggest that Kroenke is using his personal vast wealth to bully our fan base into acceptance of his immoral stewarding of our club. He is in my view a prime example of a bully. Abramovitch, by contrast, is not a bully to Chelsea fans, though I have little doubt he achieved his vast wealth through chicanery and bullying in his home country , a la Putin and Usmanov. It is these corporate bullies who constantly slip through the net of being widely and properly regarded as bullies, which most of them undoubtedly are. They do in total FAR, FAR, more personal harm to millions more people than do most small time online bullies, though they too are also disordered and evil. I an not an evil man. What I am is a man of strong, definite and forceful opinions who through my ability for communication sometimes unwittingly upsets too easily offended , again mostly younger, folk. I have sometimes been out of order and am very far from perfect , and as are all humans, full of faults. My strong wish is that so many inexperienced, non worldly wise folk, could try to have a greater and more able understanding of the precise meaning of our English language. Incorrect use of language and the actual meaning of words is rife on here and on social media in general. That fact alone provides the key to my contention that so many who are “hurt” are young; very young people. They, in general, have not the spelling, reading and punctuation skills nor use of precise language that we oldies learned back in the days of regular book reading and writing and long before the days of vastly incorrect language being commonly used almost everywhere, as is so very often today.
      In my view, the power in both the LABOUR and CONSERVATIVE POLITICAL PARTIES is because bullies at their very top and “behind the throne” top people , sadly, hold sway. I think the ROYAL FAMILY ARE A WONDERFUL EXCEPTION TO THIS RULE(apart from Prince Andrew) and he is more of a self centred bore than a proper bully I suspect. Better stop now, Sue is “bullying” me to finally get off the computer. Of course she may just well be concerned for my health, as women so wonderfully often are. I am too daft to realise that most of my time. Sigh!

      1. Can’t we all be kinder to each other and stick to the facts, rather than become emotional and engage in personal abuse.

  11. Thought provoking article JF .The abuse of football players by fans attending matches has been with us for some considerable time ,in fact it happens in almost every game.While Xhaka was out of order on Sunday, so too are the cowards who hide behind their social media screen and spout their foul mouthed vitriol aimed at the family of their target.The Xhaka incident has deflected from the very worrying position our Club are in when they have amassed only one point from a possible six against two hard working but limited teams.The situation could get a lot worse if we I suspect we lose to Wolves and high flying Leicester.Arsenal could well be facing a major crisis in the weeks ahead as I very much doubt the ability of our Manager to turn the ship around

  12. a very well written article, full of passion, honesty and total love of our club.but , of course, you have the prime boys getting in on the act , praising mr.fox, and, then sticking the knife in in a veiled manner.but i believe these know alls are barking up the wrong tree .yes, we all have our opinions, and, yes,we are all entitled to voice those opinions, both, on this site, and more importantly, at the emirates.if i were buying an item in a shop , and, if the item was not fit for purpose then i have the right to voice my opinion regarding the item !.i say that the people who boo are quite correct in doing what they are doing. people paying top prices for tickets to watch the arsenal have been short changed for the past fourteen years or thereabouts.free speech is a great man altogether, it is what makes us different to many other societies, long may it stay this way. boooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

    1. gerry, It is plain that you, above all else, have understood my whole contention and theme and that is a wonderful fillip to read and to know. Heartfelt thanks! True free speech is precious and we let it slide at our peril.

  13. Great perspective of the discussion on this platform, about this issue. I love the honesty, the passion and the focus on what is good and noble that has guided our discourse here. Long may it last.

    Arsenal fanbase is peopled by good folks who love good football and are passionate about their club and are classy about that love.

    If Xhaka and his tantrum on Sunday has achieved that, through the soul searching that has taken place among us fans since the incident on Sunday, then some good has come out of it all then.

  14. Not sure your thesis was aimed at a footballer telling a crowd to……
    By way I remember Beckham putting middle finger up to England fans, Rooney swearing at them, Roanldo throwing camera into a pond, the French squad going on strike
    Didn’t a player resort to verbal abuse by head butting a player in a final…..that little player Zidane
    None of these were winners ?
    So it lietrally just eb a man tired of abused aimed at him and his family and lost it for a second

  15. I so much love those fans that make our captain Angry on sunday and i also like the way Xhaka replied them,now am Waiting for our coach action now after the incident,as for me i don’t see anything wrong in what our fans did on sunday same as been does to Cr7,messi,neymar and so many more but the way xhaka reply make things worseYou can just work off the pitch and act like you don’t here and you can even reply them by a Smile even if you are not happy but just to show them you are a Profesional and you can just do what is right at the right time but he Abuse them,throw away the captain band on the floor he Pull his jersey like he’s not going to put it on again in his life all this are not good,for example banana as been trown at baloteli and dani alves and both of them eat it,meanwhile there own case is even more worst than xhaka own but as for those that abuse his family its not welcome at all he xhaka should take legal action,his family got no business with arsenal and they should not be involved in anyway

Comments are closed

Top Blog Sponsors
JustArsenal Top Ten UK Blogs