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Police arrest 12-year-old boy over racist messages sent to footballer Wilfried Zaha

Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson labelled the abuse ‘cowardly and despicable’.

Wilfried Zaha pictured during the game with Aston Villa.
Wilfried Zaha pictured during the game with Aston Villa.
Image: Rui Vieira/NMC Pool/PA Wire

Updated at 17.30

POLICE HAVE arrested a 12-year-old boy in relation to racist abuse sent to Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha on social media.

Zaha, 27, posted screenshots on Twitter from messages sent to his Instagram account ahead of Palace’s Premier League fixture at Aston Villa on Sunday.

“You better not score tomorrow you black c***,” one read.

That was followed by a second message reading: “Or I’ll come to your house dressed as a ghost.”

Zaha was then sent racist imagery, with the Ivory Coast international deciding to share the abuse, collating the messages and tweeting: “Woke up to this today.”

West Midlands Police said in a statement on Twitter on Sunday afternoon: “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 earlier praised Wilfried Zaha for going public having been the target of “cowardly and despicable” racist abuse.

Speaking ahead of his side’s 2-0 loss at Villa Park, Hodgson said he supported Zaha’s call to make the direct messages public, as well as condemning the content of them

“I think it’s important,” he said in a pre-match interview with Sky Sports.

I think it is being highlighted very much anyway with the Black Lives Matter movement, and everyone seems to be making such an effort to eradicate this type of behaviour.

“It is very saddening on the day of a game that a player wakes up to this cowardly and despicable abuse.

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“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.”

Just before news broke of the arrest, the Premier League 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 told the PA news agency: “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.”

Originally published at 15.36

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