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Wilfried Zaha speaks out after 12-year-old Aston Villa fan is arrested for racially abusing him

Wilfried Zaha has spoken out on the racist abuse he received before Crystal Palace's trip to Aston Villa on Sunday, where he thanked the Midlands Police for their 'swift action' in arresting a 12-year-old boy.

The Ivorian star took to Twitter on Monday morning to say that people, whatever their age, cannot 'hide behind social media' before insisting that action and educating people is the way to end racism.

He said: 'Very disappointed we didn't get a better result yesterday but I wanted to come on here to thank you for all your messages of support. I would also like to thank West Midlands Police for their swift action in making an arrest. 

Crystal Palace star Wilfried Zaha has spoken out on the racist abuse he has received

Zaha took to Twitter on Monday to thank the police for their 'swift action' in making arrests

'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 message 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 no to racism. We need action, we need education, things need to change.'

His message comes after Zaha was the subject of vile racist messages before his game with Villa on Sunday. 

In two messages, Zaha was told 'you better not score tomorrow you black c***' before the poster added 'or I'll come to your house dressed as a ghost.'

The poster, who later posted an apology to Zaha in a caption of a photo of Aston Villa players taking a knee, also sent an picture of a Ku Klux Klan gathering, to underline the threat, and another displaying an edited version of a box of cornflakes, instead carrying the words 'c***flakes' and displaying a man with his face blacked up.

West Midlands Police confirmed a 12-year-old from Solihull has been arrested as part of their investigation.  

The Premier League are looking into the incident as part of their discriminatory abuse system. 

In response to the arrest, the PFA said: 'The posts sent to @wilfriedzaha ahead of today's game were sickening and abhorrent.Players continue to be the target of relentless abuse online.

'While we're satisfied that the offender has been arrested, the fact a 12-year-old would send such material is deeply troubling. 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.'

While the Met Police are also investigating and have contacted Zaha, they said on Sunday: 'We have been made aware of the tweet by members of the public and have messaged the @wilfriedzaha Twitter account.'

Palace manager Roy Hodgson, speaking prior to an arrest being made, said: 'I think it's important [that players and football clubs continue to raise awareness of the abuse suffered]. 

'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.

'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.'

West Midlands Police earlier wrote on Twitter: 'Hi Wilfried. We are looking into who the owner of this account is and would encourage you to report it to your local police force too.'

A statement from Kick It Out chairman Sanjay Bhandari read: 'The most saddening part of this abuse is that it is not surprising. This kind of disgusting targeted racist abuse has become normalised on social media. 

'Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are like the Wild West. To address this we need social media companies to do more. We also need a concerted and sustained effort between government, law enforcement and the football authorities to prioritise the gathering of evidence and prosecution of online hate. 

'We need to show the online haters that they will be tracked and that there are consequences for their actions. At the moment, they act with complete impunity.'

The incident is just the latest to be highlighted this season involving players past and present receiving racist messages on their social media.

And it comes just two weeks after the Premier League launched a new system online to allow Premier League players to report online abuse.

The system is also available to coaches, managers and family members and the league could pursue legal action on the behalf of any recipient.

The fan threatened to come to the Ivorian's house if he scored against Aston Villa on Sunday

Crystal Palace tweeted their disgust at the abuse received by their star player ahead of their trip to Villa Park.

'This is an absolute disgrace and should not be happening,' a club tweet stated.

'We stand with you, Wilf, and anyone else who has to suffer such horrific abuse.'

And Villa tweeted: 'We deplore the disgusting racist messages sent to @wilfriedzaha. We condemn all forms of racial discrimination and stand with @CPFC. 

'We are working with the police in investigating this extremely serious matter and when the culprit is identified AVFC will issue a lifetime ban.'

The abuse comes a day after Tammy Abraham was also subjected to similar remarks online following Chelsea's defeat by Sheffield United.

A number of fans - many with Chelsea-related avatars and usernames - branded the England striker 'Apebraham' on social media.

It appears Twitter however took swift action with many of the accounts, deleting the tweets.

The abuse sent to Zaha comes a day after Tammy Abraham was also targeted by racist remarks

The former Nottingham Forest, Arsenal and Manchester United defender was also extremely critical of the punishments handed out to fans who hurl abuse, labelling them 'pathetic' and 'ridiculous'.

'I think the fines are bordering on ridiculous. When the England team go abroad, it's more prevalent there, and I think the fines are bordering on pathetic,' Anderson said.

'If you said to one of the associations "well the fine is £6million", I think they would get people out of that stadium very quickly. They wouldn't be welcomed back.

'I think the fines have got to be more substantial. You've got to make a point that it's not acceptable in 2020.' 

English football is continuing to embrace the Black Lives Matter movement following the death of George Floyd in America last month.

Since the tragic events in Minneapolis, all Premier League matches have seen players take a knee before kick-off in solidarity with the black community.

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