Zaha reveals motivation behind decision to Ivory Coast football club

Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha has explained how the love he received when he first visited Ivory Coast motivated him to buy a football club.

  • Zaha explained how going back home opened his eyes
  • 29-year-old bought fourth tier club in Ivory Coast
  • Palace forward keen to give back to the society

WHAT HAPPENED? Zaha and his brother Carin purchased Espoir Club D’Abengourou, a fourth division, semi-pro club in Ivory Coast based in the capital Yamoussoukro in September to offer opportunities to talented youngsters in the country.

WHAT DID ZAHA SAY? “Going back to my country just opened up my eyes to a lot of things to be thankful for,” Zaha told Forbes as published on the Palace website.

“I just wanted to invest back in my country. I was thinking of different possibilities to help and when my brother came to me with the football club opportunity, it just made me think: ‘Imagine all the aspiring kids that are watching me that want that same opportunity.’

“So, if you do well you get an opportunity to thrive and you can end up playing for my club. There are so many people who want to play and there’s just not many opportunities.”

“I just thought: ‘The love I’m getting, let me see if I can give it back somehow.’”

THE BIGGER PICTURE: Zaha is not new to charitable causes. He has been giving 10 per cent of his salary to charity since signing his first professional contract and established a foundation that funds an orphanage in Ivory Coast run by his sister.

The Zaha Foundation also supports widows and other community and development projects for young people in the country.

In England, he supports charitable causes, including a south-London football academy and at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, he offered free accommodation to staff from the UK’s National Health Service.

Born in Abidjan, Zaha moved with his family to London when he was four before joining the Palace academy when he was 12. He has been with the club since then, with an unsuccessful spell at Manchester United (2013-2015) in between.

Zaha, who has scored 88 goals in 441 appearances for the Eagles, switched allegiance to Ivory Coast in 2016 after representing England at junior level and also won two caps for the Three Lions.

WHAT’S NEXT? Zaha will be in action on Sunday when Palace take on West Ham in the Premier League at London Stadium.

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