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The powerful Yan Dhanda interview as Swansea City star reveals crippling impact of social media abuse and outlines what must happen next

Swansea City star Yan Dhanda has given an emotional interview and admits he was “angry” after being racially abused on social media.

The Swans strongly condemned the abuser, police are conducting an investigation while the 22-year-old himself has vowed to do all in his power to bring the perpetrator to justice.

Swansea boss Steve Cooper and captain Matt Grimes have given Dhanda their full backing, as have his team-mates.

And as he bids to hold social media websites to account for giving trolls the platform to dish out abuse, Dhanda has opened up on what happened and how he dealt with it.

Here, Swansea City correspondent Ian Mitchelmore brings you a full breakdown of how events unfolded and what Dhanda wants to happen next.

The incident

Shortly after Swansea’s 3-1 loss to Man City in the fifth round of the FA Cup on Wednesday, February 10, Dhanda received racist abuse via a direct message sent to his official Instagram account.

The message was not made public, however Dhanda – who was left shaken after reading the abuse – quickly felt the need to act.

“Initially I was just shocked,” he said.

“I was angry, I was hurt and as the night carried on, I didn’t get much sleep. I was thinking about it quite a lot.

“When I went home, I was quiet, and the next day at training, I wasn’t my normal self. I was a bit reserved, a bit shocked and upset still.

“I’ve had time to speak with family and the support of my family and everyone at Swansea, so I do feel much better now, but initially, the first couple of days, I was upset and I was hurt.

“It got to me, and it affected me a lot more than I expected it to.”

The immediate aftermath

Dhanda spent several hours at the Liberty Stadium following his side’s clash with Man City, something that was made even more gruelling given that he had given his all for his club in the cup contest before having to begin the arduous process of attempting to secure justice.

Swansea themselves swiftly condemned the abuse in a strong statement issued via their own online platforms.

“From Swansea, I couldn’t have asked anything more from the staff, the players to everyone in the building,” he explained.

“Everyone’s seen the statements that have gone out, but, behind the scenes, after the Man City game, I was at the stadium until twelve at night.

“Six members of staff stayed with me to make sure I was OK and speaking to police.

“Behind the scenes, I’ve had support from everyone, and it just proves there’s so many good humans out there compared to one or two individuals who have a lack of respect to people.”

The full scale of the impact

Dhanda struggled to come to terms with the abuse he was subjected to, and his emotions ranged from sheer disbelief to anger, sadness and everything in between.

The shocking nature of the message he received impacted Dhanda to a point which rendered him unable to sleep after Swansea’s fixture with Man City.

Players quickly spotted Dhanda’s struggles when he resumed training at the club’s Fairwood complex and were united in their support of the youngster during his difficult return to the daily grind.

“I was down and sad when I came in, but the team we have here, I think you’ve seen it on the pitch, we’re so together,” added the former Liverpool man.

“The support I’ve had from the staff and the players is amazing. When we’re all together, they make me laugh and smile and almost forget about what happened for a short period of time.

“Without them I would have found it difficult because I wouldn’t have had people to talk to.

“They gave me love and showed me they cared. I can’t thank them enough. The manager rang me every day to see how I was, and like I said, after a few days, I was back to my normal self.

“Initially, the first couple of days it was tough, and without my family and definitely without my team mates, I think I would have struggled more than I did.”

It also had a significant impact on his family – who were shown the abuse, as was Steve Cooper, after the Man City game.

“My family must have seen it first and they were disgusted and shocked,” he said.

“The manager saw the messages and was immediately angry and shocked.

“He was lost for words, and so was I.

“My family were upset, my mum, dad, brother and sister. It affected them as well, not just seeing their son upset but people racially abusing me because of where my family are from and their ethnicity.

“My mum and dad are angry, the same as me, and feel exactly what I feel, so I think that’s the main reason why I’m feeling better, because of the support and love I’ve had from them.”

Facebook’s ‘disgusting stance’

After a complaint was lodged by Dhanda, South Wales Police confirmed they were investigating the incident.

However, Facebook – which owns Instagram – angered Dhanda and Swansea City for its stance on the severity of punishment issued to the abuser.

In a statement, Facebook said: “We do not want racism and hate on our platforms.

“The person who sent this message has been restricted from sending messages on Instagram for a set period of time, and we will remove new accounts created to get around this restriction.

“We think it’s important people have the opportunity to learn from their mistakes but, per the new measures put in place this week, if they continue to break our rules this account will be removed.”

The Swans stated they were “shocked” with Facebook’s stance while Dhanda says the lack of punishment from the social media powerhouses could lead to the perpetrator abusing others in the future without facing any consequences.

“If they actually see what I’ve been through, and not just me, but people who are getting abused for having disabilities or their gender or anything like that, they should be willing to speak to people who have actually been abused, hear their side of the story, and I think if they did they would have to make a change,” explained the Swansea man.

“I was more angry than anything. For the person to be able to send abuse and not get banned on social media, to just be banned from sending messages for a short period of time, it was disgusting really.

“It didn’t just affect me, it hurt my family to know that next to nothing has been done about it.

“Whoever it was that has sent the messages, they can go back to saying whatever they want, abusing whoever they want after just a short period of time, and this is where I think the big problem is with social media companies.”

Not letting the trolls win

The fight was something Dhanda wasn’t going to shy away from.

“The support I’ve had from thousands of people from different clubs and backgrounds, it shows that there is so many good people out there in ratio to this one ignorant person that sent me the racial abuse,” he explained.

“When you look at it on the other hand, the amount of people who have a good heart, sent me messages and cared for my feelings, I thank everyone so much for doing it.”

And Dhanda has insisted he will not delete his social media channels despite the abhorrent abuse he was subjected to.

“I think, as soon as I boycott my social media, the person who sent me the abuse, he’s won,” he explained.

“I can’t interact with people who actually like me, respect me and send me positive messages.

“I can’t delete my own social media because the amount of positivity I actually get from social media, it would be a real shame because the ratio of positive messages compared to the negative ones is massive.

“I can’t let this one person win and me suffer from not socialising with people who are fans of Swansea, football or Indian or proud of me. But I speak to friends on social media, I interact with my own family on social media.

“So how can I delete my own social media and let this person win when the only person who should come off social media and have a punishment is the person who sent the abuse?”

What must happen next?

The police investigation remains ongoing, although Dhanda has contacted Facebook in a bid to gain answers behind the lenient punishment it issued to his abuser.

And Dhanda believes those who sign up to social media accounts must prove their identity to ensure they can be held accountable for their actions.

“If I could sit down with social media companies, I think there should be some sort of proving who you are before signing up to the social media apps that you want to use,” he said.

“If then you sign up, you show who you really are, whether it be a credit card, passport or whatever, it proves who you are and where your location is.

“If you still want to send abuse, be racist and discriminate others, you can be tracked down and your account banned and you can’t make another one. You get one chance to use your identity on these applications and then if you still want to go and abuse people and make people feel bad about themselves, then your account would be blocked and you’re not allowed back on it.

“They’re not doing anywhere near enough. Until they start doing more and making changes, these people sending the abuse are just going to continue to do it.”

Taking the knee

Football has been united in its stance to eradicate racism from the game and society.

Since the restart of the game in the UK last year following a three-month absence owing to the coronavirus pandemic, clubs have taken the knee before matches to show their support for anti-racism campaigns.

However, clubs have taken their own stances during the course of the last year or so, with Brentford recently confirming that they will no longer take the knee.

But Dhanda feels the gesture remains important as it shows players from different clubs and background can be united throughout the game.

“For me, I’m someone who hates racism anyway, even before this happened to me. I was very passionate about people not being racist and respecting everyone, regardless of where they come from,” he said.

“I think taking the knee is a sign of respect and a sign of showing we all stick together, so for me, the message of taking the knee is a good message. In football, people who are taking the knee from different backgrounds shows we’re all sticking together.”

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