Yorkshire cricketer says 'racism' left him close to suicide

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London (AFP)

Yorkshire have been accused of "institutional racism" by former player Azeem Rafiq, who said his experiences at the English county club left him close to suicide.

The 29-year-old former England youth captain quit cricket after leaving Yorkshire in 2018.

In an interview with ESPNcricinfo, Pakistan-born spinner Rafiq said he felt, as a Muslim, he was made to feel like an "outsider".

"I know how close I was to committing suicide during my time at Yorkshire," he said.

"I was living my family's dream as a professional cricketer, but inside I was dying. I was dreading going to work. I was in pain every day.

"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."

He added: "It's obvious to anyone who cares that there's a problem. Do I think there is institutional racism? It's at its peak in my opinion. It's worse than it's ever been."

In response to Rafiq's allegations, Yorkshire said they were in contact with their former player.

"The club has an equality and diversity committee, chaired by board member Hanif Malik," it said in a statement given to the Press Association.

"Hanif is in contact with Azeem about the allegations and will report back to the committee."

Rafiq admitted his claims could damage his chances of returning to cricket.

"Yorkshire don't want to listen and they don't want to change," he said.

"And part of the reason for that is the people who were involved in the incidents I'm talking about are still at the club. They just want to sweep it under the carpet.

"But not this time. Not again. I know what I'm doing here. I know that by speaking out I'm damaging my chances of working in the game again."