A Muslim football player was viciously attacked at a football game on Saturday, and his team says that this racially-motivated abuse on the pitch is nothing new.
Zeeshan Ali suffered a broken nose after an intentional headbutt by an opposition player on the pitch. Shockingly, the referee responded by sending both the attacker and the victim off, despite clear instigation by the opposition.
“Having played around the world since the age of 12… this has to be the most unprovoked and shocking incident I’ve been involved in”, Zeeshan said. “I’m sure if I was playing in a white team, this sort of behaviour would not have happened.”
The incident sheds light on horrific racial abuse that the team suffers on a constant basis. “This isn’t the first time we have faced such unfair and frankly racist incidents against us”, fellow player Zahid Hamid said on Facebook. “Playing in the league, we’ve had to develop thick skin hearing slurs of ‘Paki’, ‘I will deport you’ and ‘shave your beards’, that have become part and parcel of playing.”
Other examples of racist incidents he mentions are being told things like “you all look the same”, “have you been eating curry, you stinking Paki” or “we will get you departed”. One incident mentions opposition players in the Under 11s game mimicking planes crashing into buildings.
The club have written to both local FAs and the national FA continuously to complain about incidents of racism and discrimination, but are yet to receive any decisions in their favour or see any perpetrators reprimanded.
“We’ve been working with the local and national FAs and we’ve ticked all the boxes in terms of reporting incidents. But to date we feel like we’ve been let down, by both the adult and junior leagues, and the FA”, Imtiaz Ali says, Head of Football Operations for Peterborough FC. The club itself in a statement said,
“As much as we are aware that the FA is committed to kicking racism out of football, we have not felt like enough has been done to support clubs at grassroots level that have to deal with these kinds of incidents.”
Zahid says this is not something isolated to Peterborough FC. After posting the Facebook status with pictures of Zeeshan’s injuries, he has been contacted by other clubs also made up of ethnic football players, sharing stories that are frighteningly similar.
“Parents and other players from across the country have expressed their own accounts of vile Islamophobic rhetoric and racial abuse they have faced. This is an issue which the FA needs to resolve and fast.”
Zain Awan, anti-racism and Islamophobia campaigner, says, “it is disgusting to see the frankly racist and Islamophobic cases which are on all levels, and indifferent of age categories. This is just the start of the action, because as we know racism and discrimination requires a mindset change – serious resources need to be put to address the issue and make players feel safe on the pitch and off.”
The players are aiming to get the attention of the FA, so that these ongoing issues of racism can be resolved, and players on the pitch can be free of discrimination of any kind.