"I got pinned down and had red wine poured down my throat" - Azeem Rafiq at the DCMS cricket racism hearing

Azeem Rafiq was in tears while revealing disturbing incidents at the hearing. (Pic credits: The Guardian)
Azeem Rafiq was in tears while revealing disturbing incidents at the hearing. (Pic credits: The Guardian)

Former Yorkshire spinner Azeem Rafiq opened up about some of the troubling incidents that occurred in his time playing cricket in England during his Digital Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) selection committee hearing.

Rafiq revealed that red wine was once forcefully poured down his throat after he was pinned down. The event unfolded during his early playing days at a local club when he was 15 years old. Rafiq mentioned that it was his first encounter with alcohol and that he was not ready for it.

However, he added that he continued to drink in order to blend with his teammates and their culture so as to fulfill his aspirations of representing England someday. The former Yorkshire off-spinner narrated the following incident involving alcohol at the hearing on Tuesday:

"I got pinned down at my local cricket club and had red wine poured down my throat, literally down my throat. The player played for Yorkshire and Hampshire. I [then] didn’t touch alcohol until about 2012 and around that time I felt I had to do that to fit in. I wasn’t perfect, there are things I did which I felt I had to do to achieve my dreams. I deeply regret that but it has nothing to do with racism."

Azeem Rafiq then spoke about having had ambitions of representing England at the highest level.

“All I wanted to do is play cricket and play for England and live my dream and live my family’s dream. In my first spell, I don’t really think I quite realised what it was. I think I was in denial,” added Rafiq
“he was problematic in the dressing room.”Rafiq did not share ‘White Rose values’Thanks for continuing to PROVE me right - that the club is INSTITUTIONALLY RACIST & showing why EVERYONE needs to go #Accountability #StartAgain #StumpOutRacism #EnoughIsEnough…

The off-spinner also opened up about taking medication to deal with mental health issues that arose due to facing consistent racial abuse. According to Azeem Rafiq, the issue is not exclusive to Yorkshire but is rampant across England.

"The word ‘Paki’ was used constantly, there just seemed to be an acceptance in the institution" - Azeem Rafiq

Azeem Rafiq then divulged the language his teammates used while discriminating against Asian players at the club. He and many others were often referred to as 'paki' and not by their original names. Rafiq added that even though such things happened in front of authorities, no one tried stopping them. In this regard, he said:

“Pretty early on, me and other people from an Asian background … there were comments such as ‘you’ll sit over there near the toilets’, ‘elephant washers’. The word ‘Paki’ was used constantly. And there just seemed to be an acceptance in the institution from the leaders and no one ever stamped it out.”

Azeem Rafiq stated that the environment at Yorkshire was good during the regime of captain Alex Lees and coach Jason Gillespie in the period around 2014. However, after former Australian pacer Gillespie left the club in 2016, the dressing room atmosphere worsened.

“Jason Gillespie left in 2016 and it just felt the temperature in the room had been turned up. You had Andrew Gale coming in as coach and Gary Ballance as captain. For the first time, I started to see for what it was – I felt isolated, humiliated at times. Constant use of the word ‘Paki'.

Rafiq also narrated an incident where Gary Ballance openly humiliated him in front of his teammates.

"We were once in a place and Gary Ballance walks over and goes: ‘Why are you talking to him? You know he’s a Paki.’ This happened in front of teammates. It happened in front of coaching staff,” said an emotional Azeem Rafiq at the hearing.
The first British Pakistani led Anti-Racism campaign: Run Racism Out!All change begins with the little steps & we hope our voice can both support and contribute to the bigger movement needed here in Great Britain#runracismout #itsnotbanter #EnoughIsEnough

During the hearing, Rafiq asserted that he did not want to single out Michael Vaughan or target any other player individually. Rafiq, however, reaffirmed that he wants justice and to put an end to the bullying and racist culture in English county cricket. We will have to wait and see what transpires after the hearing in the coming days.

Quick Links

Edited by Habil Ahmed Sherule