A 12-year old boy was arrested for sending racist messages to soccer player Wilfried Zaha on Sunday. Zaha, who plays for Crystal Palace of the Premier League, shared the messages on Twitter before the team's match against Aston Villa, which led to the team investigating the incident with police. Aston Villa won the match 2-0, and that's when police made the arrest.
"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 West Midlands Police said in a statement via ESPN. "The 12-year-old from Solihull has been taken to custody. Thanks to everyone who raised it. Racism won't be tolerated." Before the arrest was made, Aston Villa made a statement on social media showing support for Zaha and Crystal Palace.
"We deplore the disgusting racist messages sent to Wilfried Zaha," the team said. "We condemn all forms of racial discrimination and stand with Crystal Palace. We are working with the police in investigating this extremely serious matter and when the culprit is identified AVFC will issue a lifetime ban." Palace released a statement of their own which said: "This is an absolute disgrace and should not be happening. We stand with you, Wilf, and anyone else who has to suffer such horrific abuse." On Monday, Zaha went to social media to share his thoughts on the incident.
"Very disappointed we didn't get a better result yesterday, but I wanted to come on here to thank you for all of your messages of support," Zaha wrote. I would also like to thank West Midlands Police for their swift action in making an arrest. People need to understand that whatever your age, that your behaviour and your words come with consequences and you cannot hide behind social media. It is important social media platforms do as they did yesterday and seek out these individuals and remove them. This is not the first time I have received messages like this, nor am I the only player to receiver messages like this - it happens every day."
Zaha, 27, has spent time with Crystal Palace and Manchester United during his soccer career. He's also a member of the Ivory Coast national team where he has scored five goals in international play since 2017. This season, Zaha has scored four goals in 35 appearances for Crystal Palace.