Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Cricketer Azeem Rafiq forced to quit Britain after speaking out on racism

British cricketer Azeem Rafiq revealed Tuesday that he has been forced to flee abroad after blowing the whistle on racism gripping the sport.

The former Yorkshire spinner told MPs in 2021 that English cricket was “institutionally” racist, having said in 2020 that abuse at the club had left him close to taking his own life.

Rafiq who said he had moved overseas and had “24/7 security” with three bodyguards provided by the sport’s domestic governing body, gave heartbreaking evidence to MPs probing vile abuse in English cricket thirteen months before.

Rafiq is a Pakistan-born spinner and 31-year-old.

“The last year has been pretty challenging at times,” he told the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee.

“The impact has been quite great on me and my family,” he said.

He went on to say: “Recently (at) my family house, there was a bloke in broad daylight who basically walked in and out of the garden on the phone before defecating, bringing a loo roll – it looked all very planned.”

“Me and my family have been driven out of the county,” Rafiq said.

Rafiq’s revelations last year triggered a wave of sackings at Headingley and a report concluding racism in cricket was “deep-rooted”.

A right arm off-spin bowler, Rafiq played for the county between 2008 and 2014 and 2016 and 2018, making his senior debut at the age of 17. He captained the England under-15 and under-19 sides, and in 2012 became the youngest man to captain a Yorkshire side as well as the first person of Asian origin to do so.

In 2020, in an interview with Taha Hashim of Wisden, Rafiq revealed how he experienced racism, harassment and bullying during his time playing for Yorkshire. The interview was initially about his work during the COVID-19 pandemic and his new business, but when Hashim asked about his early career Rafiq opened up about the racism he had encountered at the club. He spoke about having an “openly racist” captain at one point and how on one occasion a senior player had commented on the number of Asian players at the club, suggesting that “we need to have a word about that”.

In further interviews with CricInfo, the BBC and the Cricket Badger podcast, he described how he believed he had been made to feel like an “outsider” and outlined instances where he believed that the club was institutionally racist in its approach.

He described how he had initially tried to fit in with the culture within the club and had done things that “as a Muslim, I now look back on and regret”, and went on to describe specific instances of racist behaviour and that he had first reported his concerns about behaviour by people in the club in 2017 but felt that he had been ignored.

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