Nigeria captain Ahmed Musa has urged supporters to stop the online abuse towards Alex Iwobi following his side’s Africa Cup of Nations final defeat.
Nigeria were beaten 2-1 by the Ivory Coast in Sunday’s AFCON final, and Fulham winger Iwobi was subsequently targeted on social media. The 27-year-old removed all posts from his Instagram account in the wake of the abuse.
He has also been supported by Nigeria’s minister for sports development, senator John Owan Enoh, and his uncle, former Nigeria great Jay-Jay Okocha.
In a post on X (formerly Twitter), Musa wrote: “Dear fans, I want to please urge you to halt the cyber-bullying directed towards Alex Iwobi. Cyber bullying is not just a violation of decency but also a serious crime. It’s hypocritical to claim that football unites us while engaging in such behaviour.
“Losing a game is undoubtedly tough, but targeting a single player for the team’s shortcomings is unfair and unjust. We win as a team, and we lose as a team. Alex gave his all on the field, just like every member of our squad.
“Instead of spreading negativity, let’s show genuine love and support to our players. They need our encouragement now more than ever. Let’s uplift each other and stand united, both in victory and defeat.”
Iwobi featured in all seven of Nigeria’s matches at AFCON and played 79 minutes in Sunday’s final before being replaced by Alhassan Yusuf.
Proud of both our boys. 👊 pic.twitter.com/yZaHPFJIk9
— Fulham Football Club (@FulhamFC) February 13, 2024
Nigeria had taken a first-half lead through William Troost-Ekong but they were denied a fourth AFCON title as goals from Franck Kessie and Sebastian Haller saw Ivory Coast to victory.
Iwobi had conversations with Nigeria’s minister for sports development Enoh following the abuse. Enoh expressed his pride for Iwobi, who said he had been shielded from the criticism by removing himself from social media.
“I’ve taken myself off social media so I’m not aware of all this,” he told Enoh.
“I condemn strongly the cyber bullying of Alex Iwobi or any other sports man or woman,” a statement from Enoh read.
“They give a lot if not all of themselves when representing our nation, the least we can do is rally support for them, be kind and gracious with words and actions towards them.
“Cyber bullies do not determine what the leadership of the country, the rest of Nigerians including myself, think of you. You did your best, gave over fourth days for the love of the nation.
“We applaud you. We are proud of you, keep soaring.”
Iwobi’s uncle Okocha, capped 73 times by Nigeria between 1993 and 2006 and considered one of his country’s greatest players, wrote on Instagram: “I pray for my country Nigeria and the people that can only hate and see nothing good in others, when effort counts for nothing, treat people the way you want them to treat you, all we have is this life is each other.”
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