Azeem Rafiq could not hold back tears on Tuesday as he gave heartbreaking and emotional testimony to the harassment and racist abuse he suffered in Yorkshire.
Speaking to a digital, cultural, media and sports audience, the former England U19 captain accused cricket in this country of being institutionally racist and pointed the finger at some of its highest profile figures.
Rafiq, 30, struggled to maintain his composure as he recounted his two-spell experiences as a player at Headingley, but he explosively claimed at the hearing and later in a written witness statement that:
- The word ‘P ** i’ was used constantly in the Yorkshire environment and was never removed.
- England captain Joe Root witnessed the racist abuse.
- Rafiq had a cricketer representing Yorkshire and Hampshire force red wine down his throat as a teenager.
- Yorkshire cricket director Martyn Moxon “ripped the strips” on his first day back at work after the stillbirth of his son.
- 2005 Ashes winner Matthew Hoggard used to openly refer to him with the racial slur “Raffa the Kaffir.”
English cricket suffered its darkest day when Azeem Rafiq exposed the horrendous bullying and abuse he suffered in Yorkshire
Speaking under parliamentary privilege during two hours of interrogation by the select committee, Rafiq said: ‘I joined a dressing room full of my heroes, Michael Vaughan, Matthew Hoggard, part of the 2005 Ashes team. And it was the most surreal moment for me. .
‘At first, other people of Asian origin and I … there were comments like’ ‘you will sit there near the toilets”, ” elephant washing machines’ ‘. The word “P ** i” was used constantly. And there seemed to be an acceptance in the institution by the leaders and nobody annihilated it.
“All I wanted to do was play cricket, play for England and live my dream. (Former England player) Gary Ballance used to make disparaging comments about my Pakistani heritage to others in front of me: “Don’t talk to him, he’s a F ** k.” This happened in front of a lot of people, including Joe Root, it happened in front of the coaching staff.
The bowler told the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee that racism was rampant in Yorkshire and no one in the leadership challenged it.
He says the word ‘P ***’ was used regularly and Gary Ballance constantly used the term
“It was Hoggy (Hoggard) who started calling me ‘Raffa the Kaffir’. At the time, I didn’t understand that it was a racist insult. Only later did I realize what “Kaffir” meant, how it was used, and that it was a racist term.
“Hoggy’s comments to me and the other Asian players, Adil (Rashid), Ajmal (Shahzad) and Rana (Naved-ul-Hasan), were every day, and all day, every day.”
He added: ‘After I made my disclosure to the media, Hoggy called me to apologize for what he had told me. I respect him for that. ‘
In cataloging the abuse, Rafiq, who is Muslim, described how at the age of 15, a cricketer playing for him pinned him down at my local cricket club and they poured red wine down my throat, literally down my throat. Yorkshire and Hampshire.
Rafiq was released by Yorkshire in 2014 and felt reassured, he said, when he returned with captain Alex Lees and coach Jason Gillespie.
Rafiq hit England captain Joe Root (left), claiming he was on those nights where he was called ‘P ***’. But then he said that Root was a good man. He claimed that fellow international star Hales (right) named his black dog Kevin after Ballance often used him as a term for blacks. Hales denies the accusation.
“Jason left in 2016 and felt like the temperature in the room had risen,” Rafiq said. ‘You had Andrew Gale coming in as coach and Gary Ballance as captain. For the first time I began to see it for what it was: I felt isolated, humiliated at times. Constant use of the word ” P ** i ” ‘.
Recalling an episode during his final season of 2018, he continued: ‘The first day after losing my son, (cricket director) Martyn Moxon put me in a room and ripped me to pieces. Some of the club leaders were inhuman.
‘They weren’t too concerned about the fact that one day I was training and I got a phone call to tell them that there is no heartbeat … I took him from the hospital to the cemetery, the way they treat me here is not correct. ‘
And he was equally critical of his treatment at the hands of another England player, Tim Bresnan.
“Tim and Andrew Gale are related: Tim is Andrew’s brother-in-law,” Rafiq said. They always supported each other. Tim would go along with him and join in on Andrew’s racist comments and they bounced off each other in terms of bullying.
Rafiq also made complaints about Tim Bresnan (left )’s behavior at the club, saying he was among ‘six or seven’ players who filed a bullying complaint against the star in 2017. Rafiq said Matthew Hoggard (right) had apologized with him after abusing him
“As with Andrew, Tim used to make racist comments and was excessively harsh on me compared to white British players, which became so unbearable that I filed a formal complaint against him.”
Bresnan, who won 23 test matches, later said: “For whatever part I played in contributing to Azeem Rafiq’s experience of being intimidated in Yorkshire, I fully apologize.”
In response to England captain Root saying last week that he did not recognize a racist culture in Yorkshire, Rafiq replied: “Rooty is a good man. He never engaged in racist language (but) I found it hurtful because Rooty was Gary’s housemate and had been involved in many of the socializations where I was called ‘P ** i’.
“It shows how normal it was that not even a good man like him saw him for what he was. It’s not going to affect Joe, but it’s something I remember every day. ‘
Rafiq said ‘action is needed now’ and that he doesn’t want his son to ‘get close’ to cricket
Rafiq claimed that Jack Brooks, a two-time county championship winner in Yorkshire, had branded India’s Cheteshwar Pujara the disrespectful nickname “Steve” during his time with the club overseas.
And Rafiq criticized the role of the Professional Cricketers Association in the initial investigation into his complaints, claiming that Matthew Wood, his assigned personal development manager, was working “for Yorkshire, with Yorkshire.”
Meanwhile, the club’s new president, Lord Patel, said Rafiq should be commended for speaking.
Rafiq added: ‘Action is needed now. We are sick and tired of these fairness inquiries and fees. All we ask is equality, to be treated fairly, no matter what color our skin is or what religion we follow. I just respect as a human race. It’s 2021, we shouldn’t even have this conversation.
“No one has been a whistleblower before, no one has had the courage to come forward for fear that they will not believe them. Do I think I lost my career to racism? Yes.
“I am a big believer that everything happens for a reason. I hope that in five years we will see a big change, that I did something much bigger than any career or window that I got. ” But he issued a stern warning for the immediate future of the game when he said: ‘I can. I don’t want my son to go near the game. ‘