During the recent ODI series between India and England, it appeared that large sections of the crowd were booing England’s Moeen Ali. This was first brought to attention during the 4th One Day International in Birmingham, incidentally Ali’s birthplace. It was clear during India’s innings that when Ali would field the ball on the boundary, a large part of the predominantly Indian support would erupt in a chorus of boos. This again happened during the T20 international match also at Birmingham, a few days later.
There has been a lot of coverage on this story, suggesting these boos were ‘racist’ and a ‘disgrace to the game’. While it is hard to argue with the latter, the fact that people are trying to imply these boos were racist could not be further from the truth. It is no secret that Moeen Ali is a Muslim of Pakistani heritage. I have seen a lot of articles on the internet saying these boos were because of his beliefs, but that is simply not the case.
India has had plenty of Muslim players don the blue Indian jersey over the years, fan favourites in fact in the case of Irfan Pathan and Zaheer Khan. India is a country with a large Muslim population where the multiple religions have integrated. India have played South Africa many times in the past year and not once has Hashim Amla, openly a Muslim, been subjected to any type of booing from the Indian fans.
There are many reasons why the booing took place and none of them are to do with religious beliefs of racism. The most obvious reason is the fact that he is of Pakistani origin and there has been so much history between the two countries in the past that booing each other is bound to happen. Now that is not to say I condone this, but it has happened for years and people have managed to deal with it. A conflict between two countries is certainly not racist, especially as the two used to be one many years ago.
Another reason behind the booing could be down to the fact Ali pretty much had a go at the British Indian fans for supporting India, saying they should get behind England instead. You can understand why many Indian fans would be upset with this remark, as supporting India is fully justified and a way to get in touch with family roots. To many Indians, a Pakistani British man such as Moeen Ali telling them to support England rather than India would seem like a huge slap in the face. It is much more likely that they were booing him because of these comments rather than just because he is a Muslim.
These booing’s are also very similar to the booing of Ravi Bopara and Samit Patel, both of Indian descent who have played for England against India in the past. When they did, they too were booed in the same way as Ali was. This is because a large part of the Indian fans feel betrayed by the fact that one of their own has decided to play for England. This might seem a bit ironic as I am sure they would play for England if given the chance but these booing’s are much like Ali’s, and are simply due to the fact they don’t like British Asians playing for England. This is a completely different argument but an interesting one.
British Indians have every right to support their roots and it is quite insulting when someone such as Ali is telling you otherwise. I am quite frankly sick of seeing all the bad press about the booing’s, putting it down to racism when it is about Ali’s comments he made and the fact it is like a betrayal when a British Asian plays for England. It is typical of the media to make a story out of nothing and to assume the worst in what is at the end of the day, only a bit of harmless banter part and parcel in sport.