September 11, 2013

The Fawad question

Andrew Hughes
Fawad Ahmed did not have a fruitful day, England v Australia, 2nd NatWest ODI, Old Trafford, September 8, 2013
Fancy a few legbreaks for our Fizzy Beer XI?  © Getty Images


By the time many of you read this, I will be sitting on a tiny plastic seat at Edgbaston, enjoying the sunshine, or sheltering under an umbrella waiting for Mr Duckworth and Mr Lewis, or possibly even wading back to the car park, dodging paddling ducks, arks and water-skiers. The weather guessers are non-committal at this stage, having opted to put clouds across the whole of the middle of England and hope for the best.

If I do see cricket, one of the players I'm looking forward to watching is Fawad Ahmed, although obviously, if he isn't wearing the logo of a certain grain-fermentation concern on his shirt, it will spoil my enjoyment. As Doug Walters pointed out recently, if a bloke doesn't want to wear the name of some beer or other on his breast, then a bloke ought to ask himself whether he's the sort of bloke who really belongs with the other blokes.

At least, I think that was the gist of it. It may have come as a surprise to Fawad, having been called up to play for Australia, to find that he was in fact representing a Fizzy Beer XI that just happened to have a Cricket Australia badge on their shirts.

At first, I thought it was odd that Doug was worked up about some corporation having to forego 1/11th of its on-field ad space, given that the company concerned doesn't seem that bothered. There has been some doom-laden talk from marketing types about the implications of allowing a player to exercise a moral choice, but these are the same sort of people who told us that the world of sport would collapse if deprived of the grubby money of cigarette hawkers, and who look at cricket in the same way that a botfly looks at a cow.

Then I thought maybe this is about alcohol and culture. As well as playing cricket for Australia, Doug Walters is, apparently, famous for having drunk some beer on an aeroplane during the 1970s. Is this the indignation of the beer lover at the treason of abstinence?

I'm not familiar with Australian culture, but in Britain, cricket drinking is not just tolerated but positively encouraged, particularly by ground authorities who flog their watery beverages at a handsome profit with little regard to the consequences. Go to any Test match in England and by mid-afternoon, large swathes of the crowd have regressed in evolutionary terms and find their entertainment by inserting one empty plastic beer cup inside another, clapping delightedly each time this feat is accomplished, like chimpanzees learning a new skill.

But it seems that this Fawad alarm didn't have much to do with drinking, either. It was left to David Campese, who I am informed used to chase a rugby ball around a field for a living, to fill in the blanks. He took to Twitter to invite Fawad to "go home".

Campese scuttled back under his rock soon after, from where he tweeted a sort of apology, among a cloud of nonsense about sport being a team game and blah blah blah. Of course, an apology is the polite thing to do, but the question is, why say something like that in the first place? Much fun is made of England's reliance on South African-born immigrants, but they are never invited to get back where they came from with such vehemence.

Sacha Baron Cohen once said that when he was playing the anti-semitic character Borat, people around him seemed to feel much more at ease about expressing prejudiced opinions. So perhaps, at a time when Australia's political parties are falling over themselves in their competition to see who can be the most unpleasant towards immigrants, ordinary citizens and former rugby players may feel freer to vent their own xenophobia.

But in the long run, this is a good thing. We all have some dark corners of our brain where the sunlight of rationality has not fallen for some time. By putting his thoughts out there, Campese, and those who think along the same lines, have had their bigotry exposed, and hopefully will use this opportunity to reflect on just why they have a problem with a man called Fawad, or indeed a man called Usman, wearing an Australian shirt.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England. He tweets here

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Keywords: Controversy, Socio-cultural

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by offnon on (September 13, 2013, 5:41 GMT)

Perfectly put Mr. Hughes. Of course it does not reflect the opinion of all Australians nor does it claim to do so. But there are things that should be unwelcome anywhere civilized in this world and palpable xenophobia in cricket talk is definitely among them.

Posted by Insult_2_Injury on (September 12, 2013, 7:17 GMT)

It would appear you were not uninformed Anthony Purcell, just ill informed. One of the Australian election points being disputed was trying to return Australia's immigration policy back to accepting the destitute refugees who've spent years in Pakistani & Sudenese (amongst others) refugee camps rather than the economic refugees who are paying unscrupulous traders to push the starving and destitute further down the list. So put away your sarcasm for a minute and have a thought for the thousands of vetted people in official refugee camps who have to be told they will not be admitted at the moment because 5000 places they were allocated have been taken by 35,000 others who have thousands of dollars to queue jump. Put your email address on here Anthony and I'll put you in touch will my mate in Darfur and he can let you talk to the desperate in their camp. I'll also add the photos from my other mate patrolling off North WA, you can see the latest batch in their rayban sunglasses.

Posted by   on (September 12, 2013, 6:15 GMT)

@insult_2_injury Uninformed comment? So you're saying that Labor & the LNP didn't have a contest to see who could be more vindictive, intolerant and mean-spirited toward victims of violence, oppression and injustice? I was watching the wrong election campaign? The whole time? I could have sworn... Was that all some Big Brother promo?

Posted by Insult_2_Injury on (September 12, 2013, 5:21 GMT)

Are you an Aussie Gus Kennedy? If so, don't speak for me. All this seems to have degenerated into some sort of stereotypical slur on Australia. How about we remember that Walters & Campese represented all Australians on the sporting field, but they don't represent the view of all Australians when they are quoted in the media. How about we leave the existentialism and navel gazing to some other site and get back to what binds

Posted by Cricket_theBestGame on (September 12, 2013, 1:43 GMT)

very well said. and this just hit the nail on the dead middle !

" By putting his thoughts out there, Campese, and those who think along the same lines, have had their bigotry exposed, and hopefully will use this opportunity to reflect on just why they have a problem with a man called Fawad, or indeed a man called Usman, wearing an Australian shirt. "

Posted by Insult_2_Injury on (September 12, 2013, 1:36 GMT)

I guess if you put your comment out there, you need to accept reaction of all kinds as ex-internationals Walters & Campese have. I suspect Campese is bemused at being labelled a racist with his childhood background as an Italian Australian in the '60's. His apology is part of the media game in this day and age. Sadly writers then broaden the attack as Andrew has here with misinformed, ill informed and uninformed comment on Australian politics. What a shame the rain keeps falling, wouldn't it be great to concentrate on ALL those who are ultimately playing and being cheered for their actions representing the emblem not the logo on the shirt?

Posted by SagirParkar on (September 12, 2013, 0:19 GMT)

kudos Mr Hughes..

a much serious article compared to your usual contributions but it does highlight the problem people have in general across the world - prejudice and bigotry.

socio-cultural and political interference in such issues will persist for as long as there are people ruling other people.

Posted by   on (September 11, 2013, 23:12 GMT)

Andrew, would you be our Prime Minister? Governor General?

Posted by alarky on (September 11, 2013, 11:50 GMT)

An excellent article. However, This is how I would like to see everybody's socks being pulled up when it's necessary to do so; and not just doing for those few rouges whose names do not ring bells all over the world.

Posted by May4sBeWithThem on (September 11, 2013, 11:35 GMT)

Wow, Andrew - more serious than your usual stuff, but well put. I'm not really surprised at Campo's outburst and his apologies - seems to happen regularly in Aussie sport. Dean Jones and his remark on Amla is well known; the funnier part was his apology ("Sorry mate, I didn't mean it to go on air"!!)

Posted by   on (September 11, 2013, 9:54 GMT)

The question is - if another Australian chose not to wear the beer companies logo citing some particular moral concern (whether it be religion or health perhaps?), how would the Australian public react?

I think that there would be an uproar - Australian 'men' would mock and abuse the individual forever more for failing to fit the Australia male stereotype. He would be harangued by individuals across the country. So perhaps the issue is not primarily the one expressed by Campese, but rather the root issue is one of 'what it is to be a man'. Australia needs to move away from seeing a 'man' JUST as a beer drinking lad and broaden its definition. This will help reduce Australia's young male alcohol (and drug) problem and bring with it a range of benefits.

Posted by tickcric on (September 11, 2013, 9:39 GMT)

You are right Andrew. Also its not as if beer is a health drink or something! Why should one have problem if someone doesn't want to endorse it?

Posted by   on (September 11, 2013, 9:36 GMT)

i struggled to decide what was more lame , campese's original tweet or his apology (sort-of)

Posted by GedLadd on (September 11, 2013, 8:52 GMT)

Spot on, Andrew. I raise my glass to you. With non-alcoholic liquid in the glass on this occasion, naturally.

Posted by srikanths on (September 11, 2013, 8:48 GMT)

Campese may be a cad and this may not be about a beer brand. Who cares about VB but it does look like CA also does not care. Wearing logo may have nothing about team spirit etc but it does reflect on the moral rigidity of migrants Vis a Vis expectation of flexibility in the migrated nation. Expectation of democracy and people being respectful to one's views are all right but this can be carried quite far. If CA also feels that it infringes on the morality of people or it may even think in iterns of health why have VB as a sponsor ? Andrew Hughes in typical Brit fashion sweeps the issue aside. To Brits anythng non British is not worth discussing .Next you will have some player objecting to playing alongside a gay cricketer since that does not quite fit in to his idea of morals and belief system. Campese, I repeat could be a racist and needs to be condemned but the issue of player's personal interests and beliefs and morals confliciting with others is to be addressed

Posted by Insult_2_Injury on (September 11, 2013, 8:19 GMT)

Campese's and Walters comments don't represent the whole of Australia. They've joined a long line (getting longer with Twitter) of ex - everythings that have an outlet for their stream of consciousness utterings. You are as unfamiliar with Australian politics as you profess to be with Australian culture. The political parties and public in Australia are debating illegal entry into Australia of people arriving by boat. A main reason for this is because the long term refugees in camps whom Aus actively welcomes into the country via our immigration program are still sitting in those camps - destitute, while people who can pay large sums of money are jumping the queue. Australia accepts immigrants from impoverished and war torn countries from all continents, but like any country has to limit within resources. The debate is why should a well heeled payer get preference over a 20 year resident of a Sudanese refugee camp. Personally, Fawad can take Pommy wickets, That'll do us!

Posted by   on (September 11, 2013, 7:07 GMT)

Excellent article Andrew. It's not about wearing a logo. The underlying reasons for picking on Fawad have a much more complex and darker side to it. To be short, sports (in general) is politicized in this day and age.

Posted by   on (September 11, 2013, 7:00 GMT)

Andrew, that was beautiful!

Posted by tick on (September 11, 2013, 6:51 GMT)

excellent one. hats off man

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Andrew Hughes
Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73

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