Former Yorkshire cricketer Azeem Rafiq has disclosed that he had to face intense racism while playing in English domestic cricket which left him close to committing suicide.
Complaining that he was always considered as an outsider, Azeem said that he lost his faith in humanity after management kept ignoring the racist attitude exhibited towards him.
“I know how close I was to committing suicide during my time at Yorkshire,” Azeem told in an interview. “I was living my family’s dream as a professional cricketer, but inside I was dying. I was in pain every day,” he added.
“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,” he added.
Azeem lamented that his former club was institutionally racist and not prepared to acknowledge the fact that he was being subjected to a discriminatory behaviour at the club.
Rafiq also added, “At my worst, I was right on the edge, stood on my balcony. I would regularly come home from training and cry all day. It was a very difficult time for me.
“In one of my first few games, we were going onto the field at Trent Bridge and there was me, Adil Rashid, Ajmal Shahzad and Rana Naved and one of the senior players said: ‘there’s too many of you lot, it’s something we need to have a word about’.
“We would be on nights out, I’d be speaking to someone and I’d have team-mates coming over and saying: ‘Don’t speak to him. He’s a p-word.’
“It’s deep-rooted. There were constant social events where I’d leave crying. Sometimes these things get disguised as banter but it stuck with me.”
Moreover, in response to Azeem’s allegations, Yorkshire chair Roger Hutton issued a statement which read: “Any allegation of this nature is hugely concerning to everyone from the board to the playing staff here, and we take the reports very seriously.
We have tried to make contact with Azeem this week to discuss his experiences, and will make further contact in the weeks ahead as it’s important that we hear his grievances in as much detail as possible.”
However, Rafiq is not currently working within the game and admitted his claims will damage his chances of doing so in the future – but insists it was the right thing to do.