Former England Under-19 Captain Azeem Rafiq has alleged that he was racially abused during his stint with Yorkshire, which drove him close to committing suicide. He also claimed that despite complaining against discriminatory practices, Yorkshire wasn't ready to listen and change.
The unfortunate demise of George Floyd in the USA opened up a Pandora's box with many discrimination and racism stories coming to the fore in society. It also extended to sportspeople, who opened up and shared their ordeals, which was never heard before. Now, former England U-19 captain and Yorkshire cricketer Azeem Rafiq has made some serious allegations against the Yorkshire cricket club pertaining to racism, which, according to Rafiq, brought him to the brink of committing suicide after he wasn't heard and no action was taken against the alleged perpetrators.
The Karachi-born cricketer made startling claims and revealed that he was 'dying from inside' despite living his family's dream of playing professional cricket.
"I know how close I was to committing suicide during my time at Yorkshire," Azeem Rafiq was quoted as saying by ESPNcricinfo.
"I was living my family's dream as a professional cricketer, but inside I was dying. I was dreading going to work. I was in pain every day. There were times I did things to try and fit in that, as a Muslim, I now look back on and regret. I'm not proud of it at all. But as soon as I stopped trying to fit in, I was an outsider. There were no coaches on the staff from a similar background who understood what it was like,” Rafiq added.
Azeem also asserted that he finds Yorkshire 'institutionally racist' and they don’t want to take action and change things from their end. The 29-year-old, who made his first-class debut in 2009 against Sussex, said that people involved in racism are still part of the club.
"Yorkshire doesn't want to listen and they don't want to change. And part of the reason for that is the people who were involved in the incidents I'm talking about are still at the club. They just want to sweep it under the carpet.
"But not this time. Not again. I know what I’m doing here. I know that by speaking out I’m damaging my chances of working in the game again. But I also know it’s the right thing to do and if I have to stand alone to do it, I will,” Rafiq added.
It isn't the first time when the off-spinner opened up on racism. It was two weeks back when he first disclosed incidents of racism in Yorkshire. The right-armer had, without naming the individual, told that he had a 'captain,' who made no bones about being ‘openly’ racist.
“I’ve been in dressing rooms where things have been said, and, really, I should have stopped it. I had a captain who was openly racist. Why didn’t I stop it? It was the environment. I raised my voice about it once and I was made out to be the person… I might have read Carbs [Michael Carberry] talk about a similar thing. You look back and you think the one time I did raise it, I was made out to be the person who was in the wrong. Through the years you feel like you have to do things to fit in, and I did. The minute I didn’t, I felt isolated.
“There’s one comment that stands out for me. And I remember it to this day. It was around the time of my debut. There was me, Adil Rashid, Ajmal Shahzad and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan. We’re walking onto the field and one player said: ‘There’s too many of you a lot. We need to have a word about that. You can imagine the sort of thing that leaves on you, and you hear these things all day, every day," Rafiq had told Wisden.com.
As things stand, Yorkshire are in contact with their former employee Azeem Rafiq after the racism accusations have come to light. In fact, Yorkshire have even issued a statement to the PA news agency which read: “The club has an Equality and Diversity Committee, chaired by board member Hanif Malik. Hanif is in contact with Azeem about the allegations and will report back to the committee.”
When the English summer started, West Indies and England cricketers had come together to stand in solidarity with equality and the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement and now it will be interesting to see how ECB operates in what comes across as some really serious allegations against one of its County clubs, Yorkshire.