Only A Game? Footballers have feelings too you know?

Liverpool F.C. player, Mario Balotelli.
Liverpool F.C. player, Mario Balotelli.

Football fans really have a fantastic sense of humour.

Liverpool F.C. flop, Mario Balotelli, is set to be named the club’s Player of the Year after Manchester United and Arsenal fans hijacked an online poll.

I was one of the first people to call for Balotelli to be given a chance when he arrived at Anfield last summer but with one Premier League goal to his name it’s easy to see why some believe him to be over-rated.

Balotelli might actually think he is deserving of the award but you have to hand to the rival fans - they really know how to get a reaction.

Balotelli is perhaps the only footballer I can think of that can polarise opinion wherever he goes.

I saw Balotelli tear Ireland apart in Poland three years ago and there’s no doubting that he has potential but his appetite for controversy seems to overshadow his abilities.

In a recent poll carried out by anti-discrimination group, Kick It Out, it was revealed that Premier League clubs and players have received over 130,000 abusive messages over social media this season alone.

The most common targets of abuse are Chelsea F.C. and yes, you’ve guessed it, Mario Balotelli.

“The level of abuse is truly staggering,”Kick It Out director Roisin Wood said.

“We must do all we can as a collective to protect those who are on the receiving end of discriminatory abuse.”

When are people using social media going to realise that posting such horrible things could result in a prison sentence?

Andrew Quinn - Sunday Journal sports columnist

Personally, I see nothing wrong with rival football fans trying to wind up the likes of Balotelli, Wayne Rooney and John Terry but it’s when good natured buffoonery turns to abuse that I start to have a problem.

To target a player like Mario Balotelli because of his skin colour is not just utterly disgusting and wrong, it’s illegal.

According to Kick It Out’s study, there have been an estimated 134,400 discriminatory posts this season related to the Premier League alone.

That equates to, 16,800 discriminatory posts a month; 551 of them per day and one abusive mention every 2.6 minutes.

The figures are staggering to say the least but for some reason these so called members of the human race believe that footballers are fair game.

It’s not acceptable to berate someone because of his or her sexual orientation but according to the Kick It Out study 19 per cent of the 134,400 discriminatory posts did just that.

The judicial systems are attempting to play catch up with the ever changing online world but personally, I don’t see any difference between saying something homophobic or racist online and saying the same in the street.

Footballers are human beings too, they, like us, have feelings and just because a person might be earning extravagant sums of money does not stop them from feeling hurt or offended by something someone has said online.

Twenty-eight per cent of the posts were to do with race whilst sinisterly, 11 per cent of what was being said was to do with disability.

When are people using social media going to realise that posting such horrible things about a person’s race, gender and sexuality could result in a prison sentence?

I am a great believer in free speech but free speech doesn’t mean giving someone the right to verbally abuse others because of the colour of their skin.

A little bit of tolerance can go a long way.