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Footballer Renée Hector reveals racism left her depressed

SPEAKING OUT: Renée Hector

FOOTBALLER RÉNEE Hector 'sank into depression' when she was subjected to online abuse after she reported an incident of racism on the pitch.

The former Tottenham defender was racially abused during a match by Sheffield United’s Sophie Jones in January.

Hector's experience is the first recorded case of racism in women's professional football.

As a result of the attack, Jones was banned for five games and fined £200. Her contract with Sheffield United ended in March.

Hector, who now plays for Charlton Athletic, said that she found herself unable to move from her bed for a week as a result of the abuse she received online.

She was targeted by racists who sent her pictures of baby gorillas and made derogatory comments about her weight.

Opening up about the abuse for the first time, Hector told BBC Sport about the significant impact it had had on her.

"The online abuse affected me really deeply, but it wasn't just me, it affected my family and really affected my mum,” she said.

"I was just spiralling out of control, basically, I started sinking into depression because there were lots of insecurities that I had already and it was highlighted for the world to see.

"I had spent years struggling with my weight, it first started when my mum got diagnosed with breast cancer and I also tore my anterior cruciate ligament in my knee so I couldn't play for a year,” Hector told BBC Sport.

She revealed that she felt so low she was forced to take a week off work as she was unable to move from her bed.

While the experience had a , Hector does not regret speaking out and has said she would do the same again,

"One thing I do know if I stay true to myself," she told BBC Sport. "If it gets one more person off the pitch who has said something racist then I've done what I can to help the cause.”

The FA has increased the minimum penalty for players found guilty of racial abuse to a six-game ban but Hector called for tougher punishments to be handed out.

“I think the punishment needs to be a bit stronger.

"Players need know they are going to be punished significantly, and think twice about doing it because to some people a month out from playing matches isn't really that long,” she said.

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