Australian sports, and the society at large, are in the midst of a bitter debate on racism --- and whether the nation, often considered progressive, has done enough to reconcile with the Indigenous population. The latest trigger for the debate was the weeks-long and sustained booing of Australian Rules football player Adam Goodes, post a match in which he celebrated a goal with an Indigenous war dance.
Though Australian cricket hasn’t had an Indigenous player since the retirement of Jason Gillespie, the sport has had, and continues to, embrace players from different backgrounds and ancestry; a case being Usman Khawaja, who was born in Islamabad and captains the Australia A side.
“I’m not going to say that around the world or, especially in Australia, that (there is a majority who are intolerant). I haven’t come across many. I have definitely experienced forms of racism, but at the end of the day, I have just moved on. The majority of the people aren’t anything like that.”
Adam Goodes celebrated a goal against West Coast with a war dance, which involved throwing an imaginary spear. (Getty Images)
The incident involving Goodes and the Australian Rules football crowd, however, has taken the debate beyond the boundaries of sport.
“Adam Goodes is a good bloke and a great player. The last thing we want in Australia is anything, anything at all that smacks of racism,” Aussie PM Tony Abbott was quoted as saying.
Even Shane Warne, Australia’s most successful spinner, has dived into the debate, though on the other side. Warne, through his Twitter handle, said the booing of Goodes was not racism. “This whole Adam Goodes drama is ridiculous. The public can boo or chant whoever’s name they want! It’s nothing to do with being racist....” Warne, however, may not be the best person to seek opinion on the subject as he himself has been accused of racism. The ‘spin king’ once asked his followers to re-arrange a few jumbled words; words that could be re-arranged in at least two ways. Though ‘PNEIS, HTIELR, NGGERI and BUTTSXE, according to Warne are correctly arranged as spine, lither, ginger and subtext; the focus was on what was left unsaid.
Differing from Warne, Khawaja, however, said no one but Goodes would know how it feels to be at the receiving end, and added that it would be wrong to come to the conclusion that it isn’t racism. “Everyone is different. You never know the circumstance until you are in his shoes.”
Goodes, considered one of the best AFL players, after enduring months of booing has taken an indefinite leave from his club Sydney Swans. Recalling his earlier days in Australia, Khawaja said that having good friends and a supporting family helped him see beyond racism and intolerance he faced. “I have great friends in Australia, lovely family; so it (racism) doesn’t really bother me.
“Bad people are there in all walks of life; there are serial killers and all the worst of the worst kind, but it’s only a minority. At the end of the day, living in Australia, I love it.”