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Xhaka reveals abuse to win back Arsenal fans after outburst

LONDON (AP) — By recounting weeks of threats and vile insults, Granit Xhaka is trying to regain the respect of Arsenal fans who turned on their captain. It could prove a tough mission for the midfielder, who on Thursday issued an apology loaded with caveats and asked for "mutual respect" after a weekend outburst in the heat of a Premier League match.

Xhaka swore and gesticulated at the Emirates Stadium supporters when his substitution was sarcastically cheered during Sunday's game against Crystal Palace. "I reached boiling point," Xhaka said in his first public comment on Thursday about the eruption of anger, "when I felt the rejection in the stadium."

That rejection intensified with jeers and Xhaka cupping his ears in response. The Switzerland international stormed straight down the tunnel and tore off his jersey. Xhaka might have torn off the captain's armband for good. Arsenal manager Unai Emery has been silent over whether Xhaka will keep the honor gained after a dressing room vote ahead of the season.

Four days after the flashpoint, Xhaka is recognizing he has to heal rifts to sustain his Arsenal future after three years in north London. "The scenes that took place around my substitution have moved me deeply," he said in a statement released by Arsenal. "I love this club and always give 100% on and off the pitch. My feeling of not being understood by fans, and repeated abusive comments at matches and in social media over the last weeks and months have hurt me deeply."

He recounted some of abuse he has received, saying fans have told him, "we will break your legs," ''kill your wife," and "wish that your daughter gets cancer." Hearing the stadium turn on him in such big numbers during the 2-2 draw with Palace was the breaking point for Xhaka.

"In this situation I let myself get carried away and reacted in a way that disrespected the group of fans that support our club, our team and myself with positive energy," he said. "That has not been my intention and I'm sorry if that's what people thought. My wish is to get back to a place of mutual respect, remembering why we fell in love with this game in the first place. Let's move forward positively together."

Xhaka could discover whether that is possible on Saturday when his fifth-placed team hosts Wolverhampton. That is if he is selected, and if he leads Arsenal out as captain. "He is feeling the supporters don't like him," Emery said as he considered how to resolve situation. "He was wrong and he feels it inside very deeply. But that is normal as a human."

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