Disliking a team is in no way racist
Dileep Premachandran answers those who criticised his comments in his article Anyone But Little England
Earlier this week we published an article by Dileep Premachandran which appeared in the March edition of The Wisden Cricketer entitled "Anyone But Little England". This attracted a considerable amount of feedback, much labelling him a racist. Here he answers those allegations
The article pertains to the English cricket team, and is not by any means a look at British society on the whole. Yes, I was subjected to racist taunts as a child growing up in northern England, but no more or less than any "different" individual growing up in a culture that wasn't his own. On the other hand, I made wonderful friends, and grew to love the language, the humour and the culture. I also developed a passion for various British sporting institutions, like Liverpool, Glasgow Celtic, and the Wigan and Warrington rugby league clubs. I fail to see how a dislike of a sports team can be equated so glibly with racism. Colin Schindler wrote the wonderful Manchester United Ruined My Life. Does that make him racist? And what of the thousands of English cricket lovers who love to see Aussie noses rubbed in it, whether it's by India, South Africa, or even Bangladesh?
I stand by what I wrote about the rebel tour of South Africa. The fact remains that the vast majority of cricketers who went to South Africa in search of Rand were English or Australian, and they excused their actions with that "We're only sportmen trying to make a living" line that simply didn't wash. The South African regime, right from the time that Daniel Malan came to power, through the nightmare years under Hendrik Verwoerd and Balthazar Vorster - who refused to let Basil D'Oliveira, a Cape Town native, tour - was characterised by the worst institutionalised racism that the world has seen outside Nazi Germany. Anyone who was an apologist for it, or who contributed in whatever way to giving it a veneer of legitimacy, deserves to be viewed with suspicious eyes. For the record, I feel exactly the same way about the Mugabe dictatorship in Zimbabwe.
What I wrote was purely based on my experiences. Monkey noises on the terraces were a fact of life in the '80s, as was the pig's head thrown at Pakistani fans at Headingley in 1992, and it's a measure of how much British society has moved on that such things rarely happen, save for the odd genius who likes to chant: "I'd rather be a Paki than a Turk". However, allegiance to a team comes from within and can't be forced. If many British Asians happily fail the Tebbit Test, it's because they remain attached to their roots, the same way an Irishman growing up in London will invariably get behind the men in green at Twickenham, rather than the men in white.
As for this England team, I greatly admire the impudent confidence of Kevin Pietersen and the tremendous sportsmanship shown by Andrew Flintoff after victory at Edgbaston last year. I was also an unabashed admirer of Roy Keane, who played for the "wrong" team. Come Ashes time, I'll still be rooting for the "convicts". Childhood allegiances die hard, unless you're Once-a-blue-always-a-blue Wayne Rooney as he hotfooted it across the M62.
Dileep Premachandran is features editor of Cricinfo