Boy, 12, arrested over racist messages sent to footballer Wilfried Zaha

12 July 2020, 19:13

Crystal Palace player Wilfried Zaha was sent several racist messages
Crystal Palace player Wilfried Zaha was sent several racist messages. Picture: PA

By Megan White

A 12-year-old boy has been arrested by police investigating a series of racist messages sent to Premier League footballer Wilfried Zaha.

On Sunday, West Midlands Police said they were looking into messages sent to the Crystal Palace player’s Instagram account.

Zaha, who also plays for the Ivory Coast national team, posted screenshots of the messages he received on his Twitter on Sunday morning with the caption: "Woke up to this today."

The 27-year-old had been sent racist imagery as well as abusive messages.

The force told Zaha they were looking into the account holder and encouraged him to report it to his local police force.

On Sunday afternoon, West Midlands Police confirmed they had arrested a boy from Warwickshire after examining the messages.

Zaha (right) kneels in support of the Black Lives Matter on Sunday
Zaha (right) kneels in support of the Black Lives Matter on Sunday. Picture: PA

They tweeted: "We were alerted to a series of racist messages sent to a footballer today and after looking into them and conducting checks, we have arrested a boy.

"The 12-year-old from Solihull has been taken to custody.

"Thanks to everyone who raised it. Racism won't be tolerated."

Palace manager Roy Hodgson, speaking after his side's 2-0 loss at Villa Park but before news broke of the arrest, said: "He (Zaha) is very unhappy and he's entitled to be.

"These cowardly, despicable acts from people... presumably trying to get some sort of advantage for the team they support, maybe trying to put some doubts into the head of one of the opposition team's star players.

"It's very sad that people resort to the type of abuse that he resorted to.

"This unknown person will no doubt remain unknown because it's too simple I think for people to hide behind these websites and make these despicable, vile comments.

"And yet we expect the player who is being hurt by these comments just to shrug his shoulders and take it as part and parcel of the game.

"It's nothing to do with the game and I only hope the authorities catch the person who did this and they will be punished accordingly and for me, the punishment could not be severe enough."

Speaking earlier, in a pre-match interview, Hodgson said: "I think it is right that Wilf made people aware of it; I don't think it is something he should keep quiet about.

"I think it is very good that our club, Aston Villa and the Premier League are doing everything they can to find out who this despicable individual is and one can only hope that they will get identified and they will get called to account and they will pay for these actions.

"There is literally no excuse; there is no excuse at all."

The Premier League also issued a statement condemning the abuse.

It read: "This behaviour is completely unacceptable and the Premier League stands alongside @wilfriedzaha in opposing this, and discrimination in any form. There is #NoRoomForRacism, anywhere.

"We will continue to support players, managers, coaches and their family members who receive serious discriminatory online abuse.

"Through our dedicated reporting system we can take immediate action on cases like this."

Anti-discrimination campaigners Kick It Out tweeted: "We are extremely disappointed that Wilf Zaha has once again been the subject of targeted racial abuse.

"Those who continue to select professional sports people in this way, need to be brought to justice and face the strongest consequences #KickItOut"

Show Racism the Red Card chief executive Ged Grebby said: "Show Racism the Red Card applaud Wilfred Zaha for again calling out racism on social media.

"This racist abuse is a hate crime and needs to be investigated by the police. A criminal record and five-year ban from football awaits the culprit."