Aston Villa boss condemns ‘horrific’ online abuse which followed ‘highly-charged’ incident

Aston Villa manager Carla Ward has spoken out against the ‘horrific’ abuse defender Sarah Mayling suffered this week.

Social media erupted with judgement and recriminations after Mayling was involved in a bust-up with West Ham United defender Hawa Cissoko during the Hammers’ 2-1 Women’s Super League victory over Villa last Saturday.

Trailing in injury time, Ward’s side were desperately seeking an equaliser when Cissoko pulled away on the break - only to be held back by Mayling. As tempers flared, Cissoko struck her in the face and was sent off by referee Cheryl Foster before the conflict spilled onto the touchline, where West Ham boss Paul Konchesky was also shown a red card.

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After the final whistle brought to an end Villa’s unbeaten start to the WSL season, debate raged online regarding the justice of the officiating, while both Cissoko and Mayling received abusive messages via social media.

On Sunday evening, Cissoko wrote on Twitter: “But luckily I’m touched by very few things! Because between the nonsense and the (very violent) insults that are said! That’s to kill yourself!”

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday morning, Villa boss Ward was unequivocal in her assessment of the incident’s fallout.

“Sarah and Hawa have been subject to some quite honestly horrific abuse online, both of them and they’re both human beings - good human beings at that,” Ward said.

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“And look, they’ve been involved in an altercation that’s happened in a highly-charged and emotional game and I’m sure that they’re both very sorry for the incident that happened.

“But the fact of the matter is neither of them - nobody deserves to have to go through what they went through in terms of that online abuse.”

As Aston Villa prepare to take on fifth-placed Everton in a WSL six-pointer on Saturday afternoon, Ward explained how she and the club had supported Mayling through a difficult week.

“She’s been great, she really has,” Ward said.

“We sat down with her when she returned on Monday, because we saw a lot of it on Sunday.

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“It’s continued all week, but  we told her to stay off social media, we told her to silence that and focus on football.

“She’s done exactly that, she’s done brilliantly.

“Like I said, nobody should be subjected to that. Both her and Hawa, no matter what’s happened on the pitch.

“I think the abuse for both of them has been absolutely unacceptable.”

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