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Former Indian cricketer and Irish coach Bobby Rao speaks of ugly reality of racism in Ireland

DUBLIN: Former Indian cricketer, who coached current England limited overs captain Eoin Morgan when he was young, made crucial revelations about racism in Ireland. Bobby Rao, a former captain of the Elite Hyderabad cricket team in India who spent 30 years as a coach in Northern Ireland, revealed the painful experiences he had to face in an interview with online media.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) recently suspended England player Ollie Robinson from international cricket due to his controversial tweets on racism and sexism years ago. Social media remarks made by Irish-born cricketer Eoin Morgan and England batsman Jose Butler in a similar manner years ago have sparked outrage on social media in recent days. Bobby’s response comes in the wake of these controversial incidents.

Bobby, who has spent three decades coaching cricket in both the Republic and Northern Ireland, spoke about the heartache he has through as a result of racial prejudices both on and off the field. He has also served as Chairperson of the Northern Ireland Ethnic MMinority Association.

“I regularly heard comments about my colour”

Bobby said he had a terrible time when he first came to play in England and then in Ireland. “I did a lot for Irish cricket and the community development in my region. I coached their players and nine of my trainees represented Ireland in the World Cup. I coached Eoin Morgan when he was young. Now his name has come up in this controversy. It is difficult to have faith in anybody.

“Despite my contributions to Irish cricket, in the course of my work and my game, I regularly heard comments about my colour. On one occasion I lost my job at the mill I was working for,” he said.

5% can make Ireland the hell of racism

“It is not that everyone is racist. Perhaps 95 percent are not. But the 5 percent who are, can make your life hell.” Bobby said that his wife, who is from Ireland, has also faced horrible threats and intimidation over the years.

“Even though my wife was Irish, I was not spared. On occasions the haters sent abusive letters to me. When I campaigned against racism and when I tried to make progress at work and community service, they wrote on the walls: ‘Black Bob, Go Home’. My garden was vandalised. It was a very depressing time. And what is frustrating is that there is no law against it. I cannot go to court. I know that I will never get justice.”

Racial Equality Bill

Bobby recalled his friendship with the late John Hume, who campaigned for the Racial Equality Act. “Later I became friends with John Hume who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1998. We tried to get the Racial Equality Bill passed in the Irish parliament but we had no success.”

“So there is no law here to protect you against racial abuse. Racism can be practiced in different ways. There is a subtle way of doing it. That is how educated people do it. For example they may block your way forward. They may block your promotion. They may deny you a job. The post will go to a less qualified person than you just because of the colour of his skin.”

Suicidal thoughts

Bobby also shared the tragic story of another Indian player who was subjected to so much harassment that he thought about suicide.

“So they all talk about racial equality but they do not practice it. I can quote the example of another Indian player from Karnataka whose name I won’t reveal because he is still playing. He was hounded so badly that he began suffering from depression. He went to court but didn’t get justice. It is all very heartbreaking. He told me later that had I not been there to support him during this crisis, he would have committed suicide.

Equal rights for all

“Besides coaching, I have also done a lot of community service to bring about racial unity. I was honoured with an MBE award by the UK government. I am involved with the All Together Now campaign which is designed to challenge racism and celebrate the multi-cultural heritage of this region of Ireland. People from 25 countries live in this area. We strive to provide equal rights to all of them.”

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