Rio Ferdinand named new manager of football dream team – and it has a vital goal
Any team with Marcus Rashford in attack, Lucy Bronze and Trent Alexander-Arnold flying down the flanks and Jesse Lingard darting into the box is going to catch the eye.
When it can also turn to the talent of Gareth Bale, Jordan Henderson and Andy Robertson, and is managed by Rio Ferdinand and Karen Carney, then football fans will sit up and take notice.
And when you learn the name of the team and understand its goal, you’ll realise this is one group of footballers who deserve your support.
Launched by BT, Hope United is a diverse dream team of soccer stars from across the Home Nations whose goal is to tackle online hate ahead of the Euros this summer.
As you can see, the full squad includes some big-name signings. But unfortunately, what they also have in common is that they’ve seen or experienced something that no one should ever have to – online abuse.
But they are not the only ones. Recent research commissioned by BT* revealed that one in 10 of us has received online abuse in the past year.
“Some believe that social media abuse is an inescapable part of life for footballers. Hope United wants to show that this doesn’t have to be the case,” says Liverpool and England midfielder Henderson.
It’s likely that we’ve all said or shared something on social media that we’ve regretted; it’s easy to forget that such actions have lasting, real-world consequences. But while hate speech is a crime, people often don’t think the same rules apply online.
England striker Rashford has urged social media companies to deactivate the accounts of those dishing out hate. He’s also determined not to react in a negative way to provocation.
After being targeted at the start of the year he tweeted: “Humanity and social media at its worst. Yes, I’m a black man and I live every day proud that I am. No one, or no one comment, is going to make me feel any different. So sorry if you were looking for a strong reaction, you’re just simply not going to get it here.”
Joint Hope United manager Carney is likewise no stranger to online hate. Having received vile comments both during and after her playing days, the former England international has spoken movingly about how it negatively affected her mental health, particularly at the end of last year.
“It was relentless. I can’t even describe it,” she says. “I’m low key, a simple girl who loves football. I don’t want to be bombarded on social media platforms. It wasn’t for one hour, it was for three or four days and now it still comes up – people still send me abuse.”
Fellow Hope United manager Ferdinand can also empathise. “My work, both on and off the pitch, has taught me that there is no hiding place from social media abuse,” he says. “Passions run high during big football tournaments, and having seen the devastating effect that can result from online hate first-hand, it is more important than ever that sport unites to combat it.
THE FULL LINE-UP
Rio Ferdinand, Karen Carney, Eni Aluko & Robbie Savage
Jordan Henderson – England midfielder
Jesse Lingard – England attacker
Marcus Rashford – England attacker
Gareth Bale – Wales attacker
Andy Robertson – Scotland defender
Lucy Bronze – England defender
Demi Stokes – England defender
Trent Alexander-Arnold – England defender
Rebecca Sellar – Scottish para-footballer
Liam Palmer – Scotland wing-back
Ethan Ampadu – Wales defender
Dan James – Wales attacker
Helen Ward – Wales striker
Jamal Lewis – Northern Ireland defender
Charlie Fogarty – Northern Ireland para-footballer
Lauren James – England attacker
“I am delighted to have been appointed the manager of Hope United. I’m proud to head up a team of players from across the Home Nations who want to work together in a bid to raise awareness of online hate, and also encourage people to spread positivity and hope ahead of the Euros this summer.”
It’s never been more important to know your digital rights and responsibilities, especially as Euro 2020 starts on June 11, when tensions will be heightened. England, Scotland and Wales have all qualified and, win, lose or draw, emotions will run high.
We know online abuse has to stop. But how can we tackle it? In the same way these household names rose to the top of their sport, the answer is by improving our skills. Except here it’s not on the pitch, but when using our PCs, laptops or mobile phones.
TECH TO TACKLE HATE
BT is providing free resources to help to give people the digital skills they need to tackle hate online – called Tech Tips. And the Hope United squad have signed up.
“Our mission is to connect for good and Hope United will galvanise the nation to make a stand against social media hate,” says Marc Allera, chief executive of BT’s consumer division. “We’re providing people with the necessary tools not only to understand the devastating effects of online hate, but also to show them how to be part of the solution.”
“That is why this summer, and as lead partner of the Home Nations, we are asking the country to make Hope United its second team. If everyone stands together, unified through both words and action, hope can emerge victorious over hate.”
Behind the mission to protect ourselves and our loved ones online, and be good digital citizens too, are Hope United team members such as Manchester City and England stalwart Demi Stokes, Sheffield United and Wales defender Ethan Ampadu, Newcastle and Northern Ireland star Jamal Lewis and Scottish para-football ace Rebecca Sellar.
Skills for Tomorrow
BT Group is the UK’s leading telecommunications and network provider, bringing fixed voice, mobile, broadband and TV (including Sport) and a range of products and services to customers.
The programme forms part of BT Skills for Tomorrow, which is helping 25m people in the UK make the most of life in the digital world. For more information, visit bt.com/about
Henderson adds: “It is great to see footballers from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland join together with BT in a bid to give people the digital skills they need to understand how they can be part of the solution against online hate, particularly at a time when interest in football will be at its peak.”
It has to be a team effort. Individuals have spoken out, but no one person is able to face this issue alone. As we head to the Euros, Hope United looks to pinch a familiar football phrase and become the latest squad of Invincibles: this is one game we can’t afford to lose.
There’s no need for fans to stand on the sidelines and watch online hate take place – you can play your part in stopping the abuse.
BT is providing Tech Tips to give football lovers the digital skills needed to tackle the issue.
This all forms part of BT’s Skills for Tomorrow, which is helping people in the UK make the most of life in the digital world, from children, teachers, parents and businesses to jobseekers, and older and more vulnerable people.
To find out more about Hope United visit bt.com/hopeunited
*YouGov April 2021/GB
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