Former cricketer Azeem Rafiq, who is a Muslim, recounts a frightening experience of being forced to drink alcohol at the age of 15 and hearing comments such as "you'll sit over there near the toilets" and "elephant-washers".

Azeem Rafiq said he felt
Azeem Rafiq said he felt "isolated, humiliated at times” by his treatment at Yorkshire during two spells playing for the club from 2008 to 2018. (AFP)

Giving testimony in tears, former cricketer Azeem Rafiq told a British parliamentary hearing that he was humiliated by the racist abuse and bullying he suffered at England’s most successful cricket club.

Rafiq said on Tuesday that Yorkshire teammates used an offensive term, referencing his Pakistani heritage and the leadership at the 33-time winners of the English county championship failed to act on the racism.

Before a House of Commons select committee overseeing sport, Raqfiq said that he and other teammates from an Asian background heard comments such as, "You lot sit there near the toilets" and "elephant washers."

“The word P*** was used constantly. And there just seemed to be an acceptance in the institution from the leaders and no one stamped it out,” Rafiq explained.

Rafiq, a former England Under-19 captain, said he felt "isolated, humiliated at times” by his treatment at Yorkshire during two spells playing for the club from 2008 to 2018.

Yorkshire said last month that it would not take any disciplinary action against any of its employees, players or executives despite a report that found Rafiq was the victim of racial harassment and bullying.

The England and Wales Cricket Board has suspended Yorkshire from hosting international matches over its “wholly unacceptable” response to the racism faced by Rafiq.

He answered "yes" when asked whether racism was institutional in cricket, saying governing bodies had to take responsibility.

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Tolerance of racism

Rafiq told legislators he was being talked about as a captain of Yorkshire before reporting his concerns in 2017. Then Rafiq said board minutes said he was “a problem, a troublemaker and an issue that needs to be resolved.”

A formal investigation was commissioned by Yorkshire in September 2020 into 43 allegations made by Rafiq, with seven of them upheld in a report released only in September under pressure from the lawmakers staging the hearing on Tuesday.

The Pakistan-born Rafiq, who is Muslim, described his distressing first experience of alcohol at the age of 15 after being asked about his drinking.

“I got pinned down at my local cricket club and had red wine poured down my throat, literally down my throat,” the 30-year-old Rafiq said. “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.

“When I spoke I should have been listened to. The game as a whole has a problem, with listening to the victim. There is no ‘yeah, but’ with racism; there is no ‘two sides’ to racism.”

His voice breaking again towards the end of his testimony, the 30-year-old Rafiq, who had two spells at the club, said, "Do I believe I lost my career to racism? Yes, I do."

The chairman and chief executive of Yorkshire resigned this month.

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Source: AP