West Ham defender Hawa Cissoko has reflected on the racist abuse she suffered last year and called for social media companies to offer more security online.
Cissoko received a torrent of racism after she was sent off following an altercation with Aston Villa’s Sarah Mayling during a 2-1 defeat in the Women’s Super League on October 15.
It was subsequently reported to the police, but Cissoko believes racist people will “find every opportunity” to be so.
The club has issued a statement regarding racist abuse directed at Hawa Cissoko following Saturday's WSL fixture at Aston Villa.
— West Ham United (@WestHam) October 20, 2022
“Yes I was surprised to be honest,” Cissoko admitted of the racism she faced.
“It’s not that I thought the men were lying or that it wasn’t happening to them, but it never happened in women’s football or maybe if it did then the women were quiet. I didn’t expect it would happen to me, especially when the people that did it don’t even watch our games.
“If it was from people who follow the league I would understand a little bit more, but when it was from not even French or English people I was like, ‘you should focus on your own business’.
“I realised, okay some people are just racist and they just find every opportunity to be racist and say whatever they want.
“When I understood this, it was easier to deal with because at the beginning you take things personally, you think they don’t like you when they see you every week, they hate me, but when I realised it was outside of WSL fans, I thought, ‘I don’t care’.
“I know that some people, they send messages because they know that nothing is going to happen even if you tell them you’re going to the police. They know nothing will happen. We need more security and more. I don’t know how they can do it.”
The Government did last week sign off an Online Safety Bill, which is designed to make the internet in Britain safer.
Cissoko conceded the best way she found to deal with the racism was to turn off her phone.
She added: “Yeah it’s hard (to receive abuse), but it depends on who you have around you. If you have nice team-mates and your manager supports you and shows you love, respect and the support you need, then it is easier. Obviously I have my family as well.
“On social media I just ignore people because it is not real. Those people, they can say a lot of things on social media but if they met me they would never say this because they would see I am actually a human with a heart and feelings.
“If I turn off my phone, they don’t exist. The most important thing is the relationships I have with my team-mates, my coach and my family.”
Paris-born Cissoko will begin her fourth season with West Ham this weekend and remains eager to change the perception around her.
The France international was sent off twice in the 2021-22 campaign before her notable red card last October.
“I think some people have made a picture around me as a player that I am aggressive and stuff like that, but if you look, I think I do less fouls than any other defender,” Cissoko pointed out.
“I’m really quite chill and calm. When I go to the referees, I try to be respectful, I speak with a low voice all the time. I have had the same with male and female refs.
“Once I was tackled and I felt like it was a foul and he didn’t and I said, ‘hey, ref, this is a foul!’ And he said, ‘no, just calm down’. This is not the moment to say, ‘calm down’ just ignore me and I will calm down!
“I think it’s just the misunderstanding between players and referees. I think we just need to speak to them. I will understand them more if I speak to and they will understand more.
“I am going to tell you a secret. As players, everyone wants to be a journalist or a coach, but I think after my career I would like to become a referee.
“Maybe I need to start learning with the under 15’s and go to their game and referee, maybe it will change my mind. No top level player in the men’s or women’s game has become a referee. Maybe I can be the first one.”