Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas is spearheading a campaign to raise awareness of the issue of social media bullying.
“I have received all kinds of insults,” Casillas said. “Just imagine, being 32 years old and with all of the experience I have. I don’t like it because some people are very cowardly, but you have to live with it and not give it much importance.
“I can respect criticism, but if it is done with respect because you can even learn from it.”
Casillas, speaking to schoolchildren in Madrid as part of the publicity around the Spanish police-organised campaign, said it was important that those using social networks respect others.
“In a football team, when you are young, there can be bullying and that is why we are doing this campaign,” Casillas said. “You can say it louder but not any clearer. The first to say no has to be you all. It is in your hands. We have all had to adapt to social networks and there is always someone who can get hurt.
“I remember many situations from being young when you think it is a joke and you do not know any different. You learn from everything and I remember bad moments and, luckily, that stayed in the past. The difference is that at that time, there were no social networks and so it stayed in the past. It is not the same now.”
Social media users who post photographs online should also be careful, Casillas warned.
“I am careful when I upload a picture with friends too,” he said. “Today everything is analysed a lot more and details can be important. Many people look to us and we always have to be careful. When having a photo taken with a friend’s child, I always ask permission."
The Madrid native, who began playing for Real’s youth teams aged nine, said he might have become a policeman if his football career had not worked out.
“People in my family worked in the police,” Casillas said. “I would have liked to be a policeman, but you never know. In the future, I would like to be involved in the world of football."