ARSENAL Invincible Gilberto Silva is on a crusade to ensure footballers and fans are free from cyber abuse.
The Gunners legend and Brazilian World Cup winner revealed how he was too scared to leave his house after becoming the victim of atrocious hatred and vile threats.
Gilberto Silva has helped launch social media platform StriverCredit: Getty
Brazil legend Gilberto was an Arsenal InvincibleCredit: Getty
He also suffered racial abuse during his time at Arsenal and at Greek club Panathinaikos and claims online hatred is affecting the performances of current Premier League players.
Gilberto’s personal nightmare inspired him to launch AI-powered anti-hate social media platform Striver.
And he has already recruited Manchester United and England star Harry Maguire – himself targeted by sick keyboard yobs and Three Lions boo-boys.
Gilberto became a victim of sick taunts in his very first season at Arsenal.
The Gunners’ black stars were racially abused during their 4-0 Champions League triumph at Dutch club PSV Eindhoven in September, 2002.
He explained: “Somebody in the crowd was making monkey noises at us. Thierry Henry was very upset at half-time.
“I just tried to focus on the game.
“It’s ridiculous we are still having to tackle racism nowadays.”
Gilberto also suffered sick abuse after he he took Atletico Mineiro to court over a medical dispute following his final injury-hit season with the Brazilian club.
He revealed: “I had an issue with the club over my knee injury. I spoke to the president, but the club didn’t help me at all and I had to take care of myself.
“In the end I decided to retire, but I wanted to play another season.
“I had no happiness in going to court but, in the end, I had to.”
However, it sparked a frenzied backlash on social media.
Gilberto, now 47, added: “The fans became so offended by that and smashed me.
“Mentally, it affected me very much, all the negativity, the trauma and it was very tough to deal with. I was forced to shut down all my social media.
“The club is in Belo Horizonte near my home and, honestly, I was even afraid to go out on the streets.
“Eventually some fans understood my position and said: ‘We respect your history with us.’
“But it took time for me to be confident enough to go on social media again.”
That was despite being a legend in his homeland after a glittering career.
The midfielder won a Premier League title at Arsenal – when Arsene Wenger’s team went the entire 2003-04 season unbeaten – and two FA Cups.
Gilberto sits alongside Striver CEO for its launchCredit: Rex
Gilberto Silva holds aloft the Premier League trophyCredit: Getty
He also won the Greek Superliga and Cup with Panathinaikos, the Copa Libertadores and two Campeonato Mineiros with Atlético Mineiro and the 2002 World Cup with Brazil.
Now, Gilberto believes footballers are suffering more abuse than ever.
A study last year by communications regulator Ofcom revealed more than 300 abusive message are sent to Prem players EVERY day, while Manchester United stars Marcus Rashford and Maguire featured prominently in the list of the 10 most abused footballers.
Maguire has now become a Striver ambassador and Gilberto also wants to offer advice to Arsenal’s three Brazilian Gabriels – Jesus, Martinelli and Maghalaes.
Gilberto continued: “We have seen a lot of players who have been target for racists, for example Brazilians Vinicius Jr and Rodrygo at Real Madrid.
“We are all living in the same world. I don’t need to disrespect anybody, either in a stadium or on the streets. But some cowards on social media feel they are free to say anything they want. We have to stop it.
“I mentioned these issues the other day with Martinelli and I want to sit down with the other Arsenal boys.
“Step by step we will talk to the players when they have an issue and support them, because at some point people feel afraid.
“Some are frightened to post anything on social media if their team has lost for fear fans will go mad at them.
“Others are leaving social media for the same reason. It’s crazy because it’s their voice, their channel to communicate with fans.”
Roberto Carlos, Gilberto’s Brazil teammate, is also involved in the launchCredit: AP:Associated Press
Gilberto’s Striver platform – co-founded with businessman and “Steyning Town’s most valuable player 1988” Tim Chase – has been designed to give footballers – male and female – a safe space to communicate with their fans.
Any abuse is removed BEFORE comments are posted.
Fellow Arsenal Invincible Sol Campbell has joined Maguire is signing up to the Striver app, which also boasts Brazilian legend Roberto Carlos as a shareholder.
Gilberto said: “We have created a safe environment where they can interact with fans without being abused by anybody.”
Chase insists other big names will be joining – from the men’s and women’s game – over the next six months.
Gilberto added: “Last season I was working with Maguire’s United team-mate Fred, so I was able to see the abuse Harry suffered.
“I have seen a lot of the tough situations he has faced, but he has a very strong character because it’s not so easy to face this and then perform at your best in games.
Harry Maguire has been made an ambassador for StriverCredit: AP
“He hasn’t let the abuse stop him from doing what he loves, but people forget players are human and just want to do well for their club.
“However, it’s really tough for them when their families, their kids, have to listen to abusive comments.
“If we want things to change we have to start that change ourselves. Maybe I’m a dreamer, but why not?”