ENGLAND cricket was reeling last night after the horrifying extent of racism in the game was laid bare.
Ex-player Azeem Rafiq broke down in tears as he told MPs how “inhuman” abuse wrecked his career and left him suicidal.
He was called a “P**i”, an “elephant washer” and “Raffa the Kaffir” by white players who ordered him and Asian teammates to sit separately near the toilets. One even called his dog Kevin — the name used by one shamed England ace to describe people of colour — because it was black.
Speaking to members of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee, Rafiq said as an aspiring club player he was pinned down at the age of 15 by a future Yorkshire cricketer who poured red wine down his throat despite his Muslim beliefs.
And he branded his treatment by club bosses “inhuman” after he and his wife suffered heartbreak when their son was stillborn in 2017. He said on his first day back, director of cricket Martyn Moxon, 61, “got me in a room and literally ripped shreds off me”.
The former spin bowler added: “I had carried my son from the hospital to the graveyard. The way I was treated was not right.”
His voice breaking with emotion, Rafiq, 30, said: “All I wanted to do was play cricket and play for England and live my dream. But throughout my time at Yorkshire County Cricket Club, I experienced racism, discrimination and bullying, which I believe was because of my Pakistani ethnic origins.”
I had carried my son from the hospital to the graveyard. The way I was treated was not right.
Following his harrowing testimony, Boris Johnson called on the cricket authorities to take “immediate action”. The PM tweeted last night: “Brave testimony from Azeem Rafiq. I commend him for speaking out. There is no excuse for racism anywhere in society and we expect @EnglandCricket and @YorkshireCCC to take immediate action in response to these allegations.”
‘Denial, briefings, cover-ups, smearing’
Former England cricket coach David Lloyd, 74, was earlier forced to issue a grovelling apology after making disparaging comments and allegedly questioning Rafiq’s drinking. Believed to be referring to comments allegedly made by Lloyd, Rafiq said: “High-profile media people messaging other members of the media who supported me saying stuff like, ‘The club houses are the life-blood of a club and Asian players don’t go in there’, and ‘Getting subs out of Asian players is like getting blood out of stone’.
Rafiq said there had been “denial, briefings, cover-ups, smearing”. He added: “Personally, this guy doesn’t even know me, is talking about my personal drinking, going out and socalising. That was David Lloyd.”
Sky Sports commentator Lloyd said: “I deeply regret my actions, and I apologise most sincerely to Azeem and to the Asian cricket community for doing this, and for any offence caused.” Giving evidence about his time at Yorkshire, Rafiq said: “There just seemed to be an acceptance in the institution from the leaders and no one ever stamped it out.
“I felt isolated, humiliated at times. I tried to raise my concerns but nothing was done. I left professional cricket feeling broken and helpless, without hope of any justice and completely disillusioned with the sport that I loved. Do I believe I lost my career to racism? Yes I do.”
Ex-England captain Michael Vaughan and his 2005 Ashes teammate Matthew Hoggard were picked out by Rafiq. He said he idolised Vaughan and was delighted in 2009 when he got to share a dressing room with his hero at YCCC. But Rafiq, who before his hearing Tweeted “time for truths”, claimed Vaughan, 47, turned to him and three other Asian players and said: “There’s too many of you lot. We need to have a word about that.”
I left professional cricket feeling broken and helpless, without hope of any justice and completely disillusioned with the sport that I loved. Do I believe I lost my career to racism? Yes I do.
Vaughan, who is due to be part of the BBC’s Test Match Special team for the Ashes later this year, denies making the comment. Bowler Hoggard, 44, who also played for Yorkshire, allegedly called Rafiq “Raffa the Kaffir” and insisted on Asian players sitting separately. Rafiq said Hoggard called him and other Asian players “elephant washers” and “P**i” and insisted: “You lot sit over there.”
Hoggard has contacted Rafiq and apologised, the hearing was told. England batsman and Yorkshire teammate Gary Ballance, 31, repeatedly called him a “P**i”. Zimbabwe-born Ballance apologised after he admitted using the “racial slur” towards Rafiq in a statement issued earlier this month.
Rafiq also claimed Ballance referred to people of colour as “Kevin”. He went on: “‘Kevin’ was something Gary used to describe anyone of colour in a very derogatory manner. It was an open secret in the England dressing room. Gary and teammate Alex Hales, 32, got really close to each other when they played for England together.
“I wasn’t present in that dressing room but I understand Alex went on to name his dog ‘Kevin’ because it was black. It’s disgusting how much of a joke it was.” England captain Joe Root, 30, last week said he did not recall racism at Yorkshire. But Rafiq said it left him feeling hurt.
He said: “Rooty never engaged in racist language. But it shows how normal it was that even a good man like him doesn’t see it for what it was.” Ex-England star Tim Bresnan, 36, was also accused of making frequent racist comments when the pair were at Yorkshire. Rafiq was so upset he made a formal complaint to club bosses in 2017.
He was later offered £100,000 by Yorkshire to sign a non-disclosure agreement but refused. Bresnan last night apologised unreservedly for “any part” he played in Rafiq “feeling bullied”. The England and Wales Cricket Board has appointed an independent commission for equity in cricket.
ACCUSATIONS HE MADE TO MPs
- He was pinned down by player & red wine poured down throat
- England stars like Gary Ballance called black players ‘Kevin’
- His pal, ex-England ace Alex Hales, gave name to his black dog
- Asian players were called P-word & told to sit near the toilets
- Bullied by England’s Tim Bresnan and was told off when son died
- Root did hear abuse, Vaughan made jibe & Lloyd spread smears
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