Former Asian Muslim Essex cricket player claims he faced racism at county club

Jahid Ahmed

An ex-Essex County Cricket Club player of Bangladeshi descent, Jahid Ahmed, has claimed he experienced racial abuse and Islamophobic stereotyping from his former teammates during his tenure at the club.

Ahmed alleged that he was asked by his teammates if he was “going to bomb” the club. He also revealed that he was mocked by a senior coach who put on an “exaggerated Asian accent”.  Earlier, Zoheb Sharif from the same club came forward alleging that he was called a “bomber” by his teammates.

Ahmed said he was in “a white man’s world where brown people were outsiders”.

Talking to The Cricketer, Ahmed said: “We had a senior coach who I felt bullied me. I saw certain components in his behaviour which I felt were discriminatory.

“So sometimes young players coming into the environment would try and fit in by joining in with that sort of chat. I was in the dressing room with three players and a coach.

“One of the guys was younger than me. He was new to the team. But he felt the way to fit in was to pick on the Muslim. So he kept saying things like: ‘Would you bomb us?’ And do you know what? He was kind of right because those other players and the coach laughed and he was seen as a great lad.

“Every day I would come into the club and try to avoid their attention. But I dreaded it. I was always fearing what they would come up with. It made it incredibly hard to concentrate on my cricket. I was just trying to avoid the bullying.

“I wanted to change my voice. I tried to deepen it. I really wanted to fit in. But there were times when pretty much everyone in the dressing room joined in the laughter at my expense. It was basically: ‘you’re a Muslim; you’re a terrorist.’ In another incident, a senior player told me I was a ‘curry muncher’ and said I ‘stank of curry’. It was bullying. And it went on every day until I finished playing.

“I felt like an outsider all the time I was at Chelmsford. I never felt like I fitted in. It was a white man’s world where brown people were outsiders.”

He also highlighted some of his former teammates like Grant Flower, Andy Flower, Ryan ten Doeschate, Darren Gough, and James Foster who were supportive.

Ahmed said: “I never drank alcohol and wouldn’t say I felt pressurised to do so. I knew, being a Muslim, I would miss out on things. But I accepted that. There was an ignorance of the issue, though. For example, there was a team meeting in the pub during Ramadan. I was fasting and I really didn’t want to go. But they insisted.

“Why didn’t I say anything at the time? I didn’t have the balls, I guess. I didn’t feel I had a voice to raise. This is why what Azeem Rafiq has done is so important. It opened our eyes. It inspired us. What he has done is so important and is the reason I’m talking to you now. We’ve allowed these things to go on too long. It has to stop now.”

John Stephenson, Essex chief executive, said in a statement: “I am disheartened to learn of these new historic racial allegations from a former player about several of his ex-teammates and a previous member of staff.

“I have reached out to him to offer him our full support, and I hope he feels encouraged and comfortable enough to be a part of our imminent investigation. At the end of last week, we announced that the club will be working with Katharine Newton QC to focus on these allegations which have recently come to light.

“Ms. Newton specialises in employment and discrimination cases and has widespread experience covering an extensive range of issues. Having someone of this stature looking into these allegations will allow us to complete a thorough and detailed independent investigation.

“During the short time I’ve been back at the club we’ve made significant steps and I’m determined to tackle this head-on and improve our game for the better.

“It is clear as a sport there is a lot of work to be done, but we are moving in the right direction. The next period is going to be extremely difficult, especially for those sharing their experiences, but together, we will come out the other side better for it.

“We pride ourselves on our multicultural and diverse values and we hope the outcome of the investigation will help us improve and develop us as people and as a club.”

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