Taff Rahman opens up on Islamophobia and racist abuse suffered as a player
Last Updated: 14/09/19 3:09pm
Former Arsenal and QPR youngster Taff Rahman has opened up on the Islamophobia he received as a youngster trying to make his way in the game.
Rahman played alongside David Bentley and Jermaine Pennant during his time at Arsenal and is now one of just handful of British-Asians to have completed the UEFA A Licence coaching qualification.
Injuries contributed to his playing career coming to an end at the age of 26 but Rahman's journey in the game was blighted by racial abuse, which was both verbal and physical.
"I remember playing at a grassroots club aged 12 or 13 and getting an award for player of the year, or top scorer, and I remember a player's family member saying to me 'you P***, you don't deserve this'," Rahman told Sky Sports News.
"At 12-13 I didn't think that much of it [but] I was in shock and I kind of just withdrew into myself
"And then moving forward when I was around 17 or 18, 9/11 happened. That was a huge global tragedy but being someone of a Muslim background, I remember some people wouldn't talk to me.
"And then moving further on when I started playing semi-pro football, people see your name on the teamsheet and you'd hear things in the tunnel, like people saying 'get that Taliban'.
"So I wouldn't try and show my skills and play the game. In some ways I was trying to play and in some ways I was trying to protect myself.
"There were a lot of different incidences, some were very visible, some weren't very visible but they still existed and I felt it. I could tell when there were moments when I was getting treated differently or not appropriately.
"Some were psychologically driven and some were physically driven where I had been slapped for the colour of my skin."
Islamophobia remains 'hugely under-reported'
Femina Makkar, head of operations at anti-discrimination campaign Kick It Out, says tough penalties and comprehensive education are both key to reducing Islamophobia across the game.
"Last season, we received over 60-faith related reports of abuse, including antisemitism and Islamophobia," she told Sky Sports News.
"We have already received reports of anti-Muslim abuse this season - but those are just the tip of the iceberg. We know this problem is hugely under-reported. Statistics released every year by monitoring group Tell Mama, reveal a year-on-year increase in anti-Muslim hate crime in this country.
"If we're going tackle the problem effectively, it's absolutely vital that everyone in football reports these incidents to Kick It Out, to their club, to the police, or to their County FA.
"Equally, those responsible must face strict sanctions, alongside in-depth education where appropriate. No Muslim person should ever feel unwelcome in football because of their faith."
The latest instalment of our 'Tackling Racism' series on Sky Sports News can be seen on Monday, September 2, hosted by Dharmesh Sheth and focusing on British Asians in football.