Aussie 'bigotry' row as Campese tells Fawad Ahmed to 'go home'
Rugby legend joins cricket sponsorship over spin bowler's difficulties with Victoria Bitter
AFTER the summer they've endured in England, the last thing Australian cricket needs right now is another row. But that's what they've got on the day their cricketers are due to play England in Leeds in the first of five One Day Internationals.
At the centre of the furore is Fawad Ahmed, the Pakistan-born spinner who made his Australian debut on Tuesday against Scotland.
In July, 31-year-old Ahmed became an Australian citizen after fleeing Pakistan because the Taliban had threatened to kill him for coaching local children. Now, Ahmed, whose citizenship was fast-tracked in time for the Ashes tour, has allegedly told Cricket Australia [CA], the governing body Down Under, that he doesn't want to wear the logo of sponsor Victoria Bitter for "cultural reasons”.
Ahmed's decision has infuriated many former Australian cricketers, with Doug Walters telling the Sydney Daily Telegraph that "if he doesn't want to wear the team gear, he should not be part of the team”.
Brewer Carlton & United reportedly pays CA more than £6 million to support Australian cricket, a lot of which goes into the players' pockets. "Maybe if he doesn't want to be paid that's OK,” said Walters.
Another former Test star, Geoff Lawson, who also coached Pakistan for a spell, agreed with Walters, saying: "If you don't agree with the terms you have a choice as to whether you work somewhere else," he said. "Players should be able to object on a number of moral grounds … as long as they don't accept the payments the sponsor provides."
The latest sports star to be drawn into the row is David Campese, one of the greatest rugby players produced by Australia, who has become something of a professional polemicist in recent years.
Referring to Doug Walters's comments, Campese told Ahmed via Twitter: "If you don't like the VB uniform, don't play for Australia. Well said Doug. Tell him to go home". Campese followed that missive with a second tweet, asking: "Why did he come to Aussie for in the first place. A better life? Now he is telling people what he wants!”
The tweets drew an angry response from CA with chief executive James Sutherland saying he was dismayed at the "opportunism on some people's parts to reflect bigoted views". Sutherland added that Ahmed will not be financially penalised for his refusal to wear the logo because "we were the ones that raised it with Fawad to ensure he was comfortable, knowing his religious background and where alcohol fits in with that."
But Campese dismissed accusations of bigotry, saying that during his rugby career he had been obliged to wear the Castlemaine XXXX logo despite the fact he was not a beer drinker. "It is not about religion it is about sport,” said Campese, adding: "Team means team not I . You can't win if you think that way. Sponsors pay money to pay wages, develop the game and adverting [their] produce.” ·