Wilfried Zaha: Police release 12-year-old boy arrested in connection with racist messages

Zaha thankful for "love and support" but adds: "It is not enough to be disgusted by these messages I received and move on... we need action, we need education, things need to change"

Zaha
Image: Wilfried Zaha was subjected to racist abuse on social media ahead of Crystal Palace's match against Aston Villa

West Midlands Police have released a 12-year-old boy who was arrested after racist messages were sent to Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha.

Zaha posted several screenshots of the racist abuse he had received to his social media accounts on Sunday morning before Palace's match against Aston Villa on Sunday, alongside the caption: "Woke up to this today."

West Midlands Police said after the game they had arrested a boy from Solihull in relation to the incident, but have since confirmed in a statement that the individual has been released while their enquiries continue.

"The 12-year-old boy arrested in connection with racist social media messages sent to a footballer has been released under investigation while our enquiries continue," West Midlands Police said on Twitter.

"Racism has no place in society and we're attempting to contact the footballer to obtain a statement."

The posts come just two weeks after the Premier League launched a new system to allow Premier League players to report online abuse.

Writing on social media, Zaha thanked West Midlands Police for their swift response to the incident but says that everyone in society has to realise that actions have consequences.

"Very disappointed we didn't get a better result yesterday but I wanted to come on here to thank you all for all your messages of support," Zaha wrote.

"I would also like to thank West Midlands Police for their swift action in making an arrest.

Wilfried Zaha
Image: Zaha thanked West Midlands Police in a social media post

"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 receive messages like this - it happens every day.

"I want to thank everyone for the love and support but enough is enough! It is not enough to be disgusted by these messages I received and move on.

"It isn't enough to just say #notoracism. We need action, we need education, things need to change."

Speaking on Sunday, Palace manager Roy Hodgson said he supported Zaha's decision to go public about the abuse.

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

"I think it is right that Wilf made people aware of it; I don't think it is something he should keep quiet about.

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

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Palace manager Roy Hodgson says Zaha was correct to highlight the racial abuse he received on social media

A Premier League statement released on Sunday said: "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."

PFA calls for better regulation of social media

The Professional Footballers' Association believes that incidents like this must result in stricter regulation on social media platforms, stating that footballers are victims to "relentless" abuse.

"The posts sent to @wilfriedzaha ahead of today's game were sickening and abhorrent. Players continue to be the target of relentless abuse online," the PFA said in a statement.

"Incidents, such as this, only strengthen the case for tighter regulation of social media companies.

"We call on the authorities to accelerate the process of appointing Ofcom as the regulator to oversee the Online Harms legislation."

Campbell: People are listening now

Former England defender Sol Campbell saluted the mechanisms in place for people to be tracked down when they post online abuse.

Campbell told Sky Sports: "Sometimes these incidences happen and it's tough because do you want to speak out? Do you want to rock the boat? These things are hurting people.

Southend United manager Sol Campbell
Image: Sol Campbell says it is key that people are now taking notice to online abuse suffered by players

"Zaha doesn't want to wake up to these images on his Instagram but it's good that authorities are there and mechanisms in place that you can track people down.

"If you give all the information away, to the right authorities they can track you down very easily. The conversation is out there, everybody is talking about it and that's key really. The main thing now is that people are listening now.

"And there are mechanisms, ways of finding and tracking people down now who are the perpetrators of these images or abuse online - keyboard warriors."

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