The Dutchman has been one of Dean Smith‘s star men this season and is enjoying his best scoring season since arriving in England in 2018, with his eight Premier League goals in 23 appearances helping the team to a comfortable position in mid-table.
The latest of El Ghazi’s strikes was a brilliant curling winner in last weekend’s 2-1 victory over Everton at Goodison Park, but a late miss against the same opponents last July in Villa’s tense battle against relegation saw him receive an avalanche of hate.
Anwar El Ghazi’s curling winner at Everton last weekend was his eighth league goal this season
Social media abuse after a miss against the Toffees last season led to him quitting Twitter
Speaking to The Athletic, El Ghazi has spoken about the events that led to him closing his account.
‘Last year, when we were almost going down, a lot of players were getting abuse. It was getting so personal that it made me feel aggressive,’ explained the 26-year-old.
‘It didn’t feel right. An opinion is fine. I respect that — but one example of a message I received read: ”I hope you die and never play for my club again.”
‘When I looked on the profile and saw that it was from a season-ticket holder of Aston Villa I thought, ”No way.” It made me really angry.
‘Towards the end of the season it happened again and then, after watching The Social Dilemma on Netflix, I just thought to myself, ”Maybe I should just close down Twitter for a year.”
Football clubs took part in a nationwide social media boycott to highlight the issue of abuse
‘I got a lot of support from my team-mates. Tyrone Mings really stood up and supported me because he’s our leader and he believes strongly in these things.’
Ironically, El Ghazi’s recent goal against the Toffees came at a time when football clubs nationwide took part in a social media blackout between Friday May 1 at 3pm and Monday May 4 at 11.59pm to highlight the issue of abuse on those platforms and to put pressure on companies like Twitter and Instagram to act.
The boycott followed vile racist messages being sent to the likes of Marcus Rashford and Villa captain Mings, while Swansea, Birmingham and Rangers had all previously chosen to go silent on social media in response to racist abuse aimed at their players.
Swansea and Birmingham had taken part in a separate boycott over abuse of their players
Following the nationwide boycott, Instagram have said they will launch a tool to stop players seeing abusive messages after racist content was sent to Raheem Sterling and Stoke loanee Rabbi Matondo.
El Ghazi was supportive of the boycott’s objectives.
‘Enough is enough because the messages we get sometimes are not normal. Football players can’t just handle everything,’ he said.
‘You need to know that if it’s getting personal, then we don’t like it.’