Liverpool fans' Loris Karius abuse oversteps the mark as keyboard warriors thrive
Loris Karius had a rare, uneventful evening as Liverpool came from behind to beat Manchester City 2-1 in the International Champions Cup on Wednesday.
The German goalkeeper has endured a torrid time since making two high profile errors in the Reds' Champions League final loss to Real Madrid back in May, and his preseason form has done nothing to reassure supporters he can put what happened in Kiev behind him and come back stronger.
The mistakes have been frequent and the scrutiny on him has intensified with each one. It's difficult for Karius, his teammates and his manager, but it's only natural that all eyes are going to be on him and it is wholly unrealistic to think he will be judged the same way other keepers are. Other keepers didn't make two huge mistakes in the biggest game in club football.
Karius is clearly still suffering from that and his confidence looks shot to pieces. He knows his first team place has gone following the world record signing of Brazil No.1 Alisson from Roma.
Given all that he has been through these past few months, to come through the City game with no further damage to his reputation will have been a relief to Karius. At least now people might stop talking about him for a few days, right?
Wrong. Dejan Lovren saw to that when he leapt to the defence of his under-fire teammate to take to task a fan account that had posted an Instagram message criticising Karius.
"You are full of s---," wrote Lovren. "Shame on you how you treat our player! And also the name Liverpool fan page."
The Croatian's intentions were good but all his outburst did was continue the cycle of Karius-related news. Last week it was Iker Casillas taking to Twitter to offer support and to tell people to "leave the kid alone". He even followed it up a few days later by posting his own blooper reel to show it can happen to even the very best of goalkeepers.
Classy on his part, and no doubt Karius will have been appreciative of the solidarity from such a legend of the game, but the downside is that it created yet more headlines and stories about him. The same thing happened when Mohamed Salah also went public to back his teammate.
Karius will be wanting to be left in peace to try and rebuild his confidence and get some decent performances under his belt. Yet every day it's something else. He's headline news at a time when he would least want to be. Some fans are not helping the situation, though.
Footballers must be sick and tired of the abuse they get on social media. Only this week Jurgen Klopp told ESPN FC his "smartest decision in life was not to use social media." Karius would do well to follow his manager's lead, at least for a while.
You only have to look at the replies to even the most innocuous of tweets from certain players to see the bile that is out there. It's unacceptable and a sad reflection on modern society.
In the past, Lovren has suffered more than most, so it's hardly surprising he felt compelled to speak up for his under-fire teammate.
The comments made by a Liverpool fan account on Instagram weren't especially savage and it's hard to disagree with the views expressed. Where this account crossed the line was in tagging Karius into the post. Why would you want him to see something like that? What exactly is the end game here? To make him feel even worse than he already does? No good can come of it. A footballer is not going to suddenly play better because some random fan on social media tells him he's rubbish.
A distinction does need to be made between abuse and observation, though. Liverpool fans have every reason to believe Karius is not good enough and there is nothing wrong in expressing that opinion. It could be in the pub with friends, making small talk on the street with that fella you know nothing about other than that he's a fellow Red, or it might be on your own social media account. It's all fair game.
What is not fair game is directly telling Karius he's useless and that you don't want him at the club. Seriously, what possesses someone to do that? It's low, it's cheap, it's cowardly and it lacks any kind of moral decency. It's so 2018 though, sadly.
Most of the people doing it would not dare say it to his face if they passed him on the street, and the remaining few who would are even worse human beings than those hiding behind keyboards.
That said, it isn't the job of the fans to blindly support any player and refuse to question him in the face of overwhelming evidence that he isn't up to it. If a player doesn't perform or if he just isn't of the required standard, he'll be criticised. It has always been that way and it always will.
Granted, it has certainly taken a more sinister and cowardly turn since the advent of social media, but supporters have been getting on players' backs since football began.
Even when Liverpool were winning everything in sight in the 1980s, Sammy Lee and Ronnie Whelan would regularly get it in the neck from the Anfield crowd. At least for them it was only on a matchday. It's much harder for today's footballers to escape it.
Fans have more of a voice now than ever. Not just social media, but fan media. Fanzines are on the wane but websites and podcasts are thriving. Indeed, you are reading this because ESPN FC have provided a platform where fans like myself can voice their opinion.
If a player searches his own name and goes looking to see what is being written about him, that's on him. When it's in his own mentions though, how is he supposed to avoid it without also ignoring the supporters who wish to interact in a civilised, respectful manner?
Players have to accept that criticism is part and parcel of being a footballer, but fans need to realise that there are acceptable ways to express that criticism and that piling into a player's social media mentions is not one of them.
If Karius continues to struggle, fans will continue to comment on it and as long as those comments are not directed to the player himself, there should be no complaints.
Fans will always have opinions on their team's players and they have every right to express them. That's exactly how it should be, providing they stay away from the "@" button when they do it.