Play the long game
Following the Yorkshire Cricket racism scandal in 2021, England’s Pakistani players and sports fans are rethinking their roles on the pitch and in the stands.
It was racism that brought cricketer Azeem Rafiq to tears.
One of his teammates called him a Pakistani derogatory term, a racist slur. But it’s not the first time he’s been called that while playing cricket for his district. It has happened countless times before.
Despite seeing Mr. Rafiq’s tears, the player used profanity said he didn’t know he was causing offense and “will stop if Rafiq asks.”
In September 2020, Mr Rafiq alleged racist bullying at the Yorkshire County Cricket Club, where he played for eight years. It surpassed sports and led to a government hearings. Yorkshire Cricket has been suspended from hosting international matches due to its handling of the incident. By November 2021, the story dominated UK headlines.
It was a landmark moment that highlighted how deeply the UK’s unsettling mix of Pakistani athletes and fans are intertwined in the professional sports scene, but their ability to British is how low. I have competed and worked in athletics for over a decade and, despite having met hundreds of athletes, I know only three who are British Pakistani. Two of them are my brothers. Now, as a sports journalist, I was recently told by a press officer for a national governing sports body that I can never be impartial in any story about race because because I’m not white.
If we speak out about racism, even if we are to be believed, there will be no promises, it will be taken seriously and it can cost us acceptance. My first experience of racist abuse, when a British Pakistani girl of mixed race who grew up in the same area as Mr. Rafiq, was also involved with an ethnically profane speaker. I was 8 years old and was physically abused at school while my classmates shouted profanities along with profanity. I was sent to see the principal, who demanded to know what I had done to “incite” attack, and was made to believe it was my fault.
Racism is based on power, and in sport, power comes from the organizations responsible for recruiting athletes – who need to make a living – for teams. In January 2022, Mr. Rafiq said that he had no doubt that speaking out cost him his career.
But some British Pakistani cricketers believe Mr Rafiq’s case can help move things forward, by giving them the confidence to speak for themselves.
Moeen Ali, England cricket legend, said: “The best thing about having players feels like they have a say.
Mr Ali, a World Cup champion and Britain’s most famous Pakistani cricketer, said he believes British cricket’s governing bodies have failed to develop young South Asian players.
“A lot of players were missed,” he said. “There is a lot of talent. If you look at the country, most of the cricketers are Asian. So why are we missing these players? ”
Regardless of how we perform on the pitch, society doesn’t put us on a level playing field. Research by City University of Birmingham have shown that white British cricketers from private schools are 34 times more likely to reach the elite level than young Asians – a disparity that inexplicable in terms of performance.
While football and cricket are not the only sports that Pakistanis in the UK play, their high participation rates in elite sports make them important case studies. British Asians make up 7 per cent of the population, but only 0.25 per cent of our professional footballers come from any Anglo-Asian background, with the majority being Indian.
For British Pakistani soccer player Easah Suliman, the first player of Asian heritage to captain the English football team, it was representation in cricket that made an impact. A practicing Muslim who grew up in the same region as Moeen Ali and currently plays for Nacional in Portuguese football’s second division, he says the representation can “create more motivation for the players”. “.
Mr. Suliman, 24 years old, was part of the victory 2017 UEFA European Under-19 Championship Squad and scored the opening goal in the final. “It’s special, to imagine my grandmother sitting on the sofa watching me win an England shirt,” he said. “I don’t think that when she was young, living in Pakistan, she thought that one day she would be able to see her grandchildren play for England.”
But reaching that level, he didn’t meet many other people from his background. In fact, only one in 13 years at Aston Villa Football Club.
Another lone brown face at a Premier League club is Zidane Iqbal, of Pakistani and Iraqi descent. Brother Iqbal, 18, made history in 2021 when he became the first South Asian Englishman to play for Manchester United. His father, Aamar Iqbal, said it was “the culmination of more than 14 years of dedication”.
Mr Iqbal said: “His mother and brother were in tears of joy that night. “It means a lot to everyone who knows Zidane and the wider community, and Zidane is really proud of his legacy.”
For successful people, their talents often act as an armour against racism. Riz Rehman is the leader Professional Footballers Association’s Asian Integration Mentoring Program, which aims to increase the number of South Asians playing football. His brother, Zesh Rehman, was the first British Pakistani player to start in the Premier League in 2004.
Growing up, the Rehman brothers were kicked out of school and called out for profanity by the ethnic people on a daily basis. It was only when their peers realized that they could play football that their attitudes changed. “We were both captains of the school team,” Mr. Rehman said. “All the kids knew us and it was only through sport that we were accepted. Football saved us.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/03/podcasts/trojan-horse-affair-british-identity.html How did the Trojan Horse incident affect Pakistanis in the UK?