Alex Iwobi: How to handle cyberbullying

 Alex Iwobi: How to handle cyberbullying

Following Nigeria’s defeat in the Africa Cup of Nation (AFCON) final against Cote D’ivoire, a wave of criticism has engulfed Super Eagles midfielder, Alex Iwobi by the fans on social media. 

The Fulham midfielder faced severe backlash, prompting him to remove all his Instagram posts. Fans blamed him as one of the reasons for the team’s loss, sparking trolling and cyber attacks on Twitter in addition to Instagram.

Many questioned Iwobi’s place in the team, arguing that he didn’t deserve it. 

Despite his consistent dedication to the national team since his debut in October 2015, making over seventy-five appearances and scoring ten goals, critics deemed his performance unacceptable. 

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Iwobi had been part of the squad for various tournaments including the 2018 World Cup, AFCON in 2019, 2021, and 2023. Prior to representing Nigeria, he played for England U-18.

Responding to criticism after the round of 16 match, Iwobi explained that he was instructed to prioritize ball retention for the team’s benefit. When questioned about his limited key passes in the earlier games, he pointed to other quality players like Simon, Victor, and Lookman fulfilling attacking duties ahead of him. 

Despite his explanations, some fans remained unforgiving, refusing to acknowledge his contributions to the team.

Musa, Osimhen, others condemn cyber attacks on Iwobi 

In a poignant declaration, the team captain, Ahmed Musa, expressed his dissatisfaction with the actions exhibited by some of the fans. “I implore the fans to cease their cyberbullying against Iwobi. It is a breach of decency and a grave offense,” he said.

The 31-year-old captain emphasized, “while losing a game is challenging, singling out a player for the team’s performance is unjust. We succeed and fail collectively as a team. Alex has given his all on the field.” 

Joining Musa, Victor Osimhen and Victor Boniface, along with AFCON player of the tournament Williams Troost-Ekong, took to their social media platforms to advocate unity, declaring, “We rise and fall together, we are one. 

Some of our fans must strive for better conduct.” Other players such as Stanley Nwabali, Samuel Chukwueze, and Joseph Aribo voiced their solidarity with Iwobi and condemned cyber-bullying.

Other Super Eagles victim of cyberbullying in the past

BBC reported that, Alex Iwobi isn’t the only Super Eagles player who has faced online bullying. 

Maduka Okoye, a Nigerian goalkeeper, endured trolling and attacks during the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon. Many fans pinned the 24-year-old for the team’s elimination from the tournament. 

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Following the onslaught, he reportedly contemplated leaving the national team, temporarily deactivating his social media accounts. However, months later, he returned to lend his support to the team. Francis Uzoho is another player who has been subjected to cyberbullying. 

The 25-year-old goalkeeper has been under attack since 2021, with fans criticizing him for goalkeeping errors and Nigeria’s failure to qualify for the 2022 World Cup

Yakubu Aiyegbeni has also faced public criticism. The former Super Eagles and Everton player’s infamous miss against South Korea in the 2010 World Cup is a moment etched in many Nigerians’ memories. Despite the backlash, unlike others who faltered under pressure, he remained resilient.

What law says about cyberbullying 

This assault falls within the ambit of the Cybercrime Act of 2015, which expressly prohibits cyberstalking and cyberbullying. 

The law imposes penalties ranging from a minimum fine of N2 million or imprisonment of not less than one year, or both. Moreover, it stipulates that individuals involved may face a fine of not less than N25 million or imprisonment of not less than 10 years, or both, depending on the gravity of the offense. 

How to handle cyberbullying 

Handling cyberbullying requires a combination of proactive measures and appropriate responses to effectively address the situation. 

Here are 8 steps to handle cyberbullying:

Stay calm and assess the situation 

It’s crucial to remain calm and assess the situation objectively. Avoid reacting impulsively or emotionally, as it may exacerbate the issue.

Document evidence 

Keep records of the cyberbullying incidents, including screenshots, messages, emails, or any other forms of harassment. This documentation can serve as evidence when reporting the bullying.

Block and report the bully 

Most social media platforms and online forums provide options to block and report users engaging in bullying behavior. Utilize these features to prevent further contact with the bully and notify the platform’s administrators about the harassment.

Reach out for support 

Don’t hesitate to seek support from trusted friends, family members, teachers, or counselors. Talking about your experience with someone you trust can provide emotional support and guidance on how to handle the situation.

Report to authorities 

If the cyberbullying involves threats, harassment, or illegal activities, report it to the appropriate authorities such as law enforcement agencies, school authorities, or internet service providers. Provide them with the documented evidence for investigation.

Practice online safety measures 

Take proactive steps to protect your online privacy and security. Review your privacy settings on social media platforms, avoid sharing personal information publicly, and be cautious when interacting with strangers online.

Focus on self-care 

Take care of your mental and emotional well-being by engaging in activities that bring you joy and relaxation. Practice self-care strategies such as exercise, mindfulness, hobbies, or spending time with supportive individuals.

Seek professional help if needed 

If you’re struggling to cope with the effects of cyberbullying, consider seeking support from mental health professionals or counselors who specialize in dealing with bullying-related trauma.

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