A 12-year-old boy has been arrested by police after Crystal Palace player Wilfried Zaha highlighted racist abuse he received ahead of Sunday’s Premier League match at Aston Villa.
- Zaha took part in a pre-match ceremony with players taking a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement
- Prior to the game, Zaha revealed he had been targeted with racist posts on social media, including Ku Klux Klan references
- Wilfried Zaha’s Crystal Palace side lost 2-0 to Aston Villa at Villa Park
The racist messages and images referenced the Ivory Coast international being black and showed the Ku Klux Klan.
They were sent on Instagram from a user who referenced central England-based club Villa in their name.
“Woke up to this today,” Zaha posted on Twitter alongside screenshots.
“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,” West Midlands Police said on Twitter.
“The 12-year-old from Solihull has been taken into custody.
The minimum age for criminal responsibility in England is 10 years old.
Before kick off at Villa Park, Zaha — like all players in recent weeks — took a knee as part of the Black Lives Matter campaign.
“He is very unhappy and he’s entitled to be,” Palace manager Roy Hodgson said after the 2-0 loss.
“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.
The Premier League has launched a reporting system to allow players to report abuse that can be followed up by authorities.
“This behaviour is completely unacceptable and the Premier League stands alongside Wilfried Zaha in opposing this, and discrimination in any form,” the league said in a statement.
“We will continue to support players, managers, coaches and their family members who receive serious discriminatory online abuse.”
Football pundits and former players joined in the condemnation of the abuse.
Former Arsenal, Crystal Palace and England striker Ian Wright emphasised the abuse faced by Zaha was not out of the ordinary.
“People like to make these experiences seem like it’s not the norm for black people. It’s always an outlier,” he tweeted.
“‘Not one of us’. ‘Not a real (insert club) fan’. These are real people & daily experiences!!
“Sooner we accept it the better we can deal with it!!! We stand with you Wilf”.
Another former England footballer, Gary Lineker, said: “This is abhorrent, and surely a criminal offence.”