'I couldn't believe what I had heard': Moeen Ali tells of 'racial abuse' during Ashes match

  • Watch Rageh Omaar's full interview with Moeen Ali in the latest episode of Young, British and Muslim

England cricketer Moeen Ali has opened up to ITV News following claims made in his autobiography that he was racially abused during an Ashes match against Australia.

The all-rounder alleges that during a 2015 match a player on the Australian team called him "Osama", seemingly referring to former Taliban leader Osama Bin Laden.

"I couldn't believe what I had heard," Ali told ITV News of one of the starkest moments of prejudice the practising Muslim has faced during his career.

Ali spoke to Rageh Omaar in the latest episode of ITV News' digital series Young, British and Muslim.

In his book, Moeen, Ali says he confronted the player at the end of the series which England won, but the man who remains unnamed denied it.

Following the incident in Cardiff, the 31-year-old said he told a few teammates, but decided to not formally pursue the issue himself since "it was my word against the other person's word, and I just thought: 'I know what he's said, he knows what he's said'."

However, the players he told relayed what had happened to England head coach Trevor Bayliss, who raised the issue with former Australian coach Darren Lehmann, which again led to a rebuttal from the anonymous player.

On Monday, Cricket Australia announced the closure of its investigation into the incident, since no fresh evidence emerged after liaising with the England and Wales Cricket Board and members of its own team management from three years ago.

However, it is not just the one incidence of racism which Ali has faced during his career, recalling one time when on a visit to Blackpool, a stranger in the street remarked "you're brave walking around like that".

Ali says he feels 'very, very English'. Credit: PA

"It's a shame," the Birmingham-born sportsman said, "that people in general, not just non-Muslims, but Muslims are the same, we judge people or think they have some sort of ideology behind them".

Ali - who is Birmingham born and bred and still calls the city home - says he feels "very, very English", but feels that his identity is far too often questioned by both strangers and colleagues.

When people ask him about "back home" - Ali's mother was born in Pakistan - he says he "doesn't have that association", insisting instead that the UK is home, and "especially when I get into Birmingham, I feel back home".

Moeen Ali's mother was born in Kashmir, Pakistan.

However, Ali acknowledges that any prejudice he has faced is from a very small minority, and that throughout his career it has been the support of fans and teammates that he has valued most, particularly for their respect on his views on religion.

As a practicing Muslim, Ali does not drink, but says it is not an issue when celebrating with teammates, who take a separate picture with him before spraying each other with Champagne which he "really appreciates and the guys know that".

He says the actions of the other players and their respect for his beliefs "makes me feel part of the team and also feel like a value to the players and the team and the country" and "look at me not as someone who's got a beard, but as a human being, as their friend".

Watch the episode above for the full interview with Moeen. You can see all episodes of Young, British and Muslim here.

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