And this really has nothing to do with race. Really.

MAJAK Daw is a Sudanese migrant to Australia. People know about him because he is the first African to play Australian rules football. A member of the junior string of the North Melbourne football club — Werribee — Majak’s recruitment resulted in a good deal of positive publicity for the senior club that is not especially well-known for performing well on the field.

North Melbourne last won the AFL senior championship in 1999 when it had in its ranks a man considered the best Australian rules player ever – Wayne Carey. Since then the team has turned in indifferent performances year in and year out.

The degree of publicity Majak received grew even more when he was racially abused during a game in 2011. Newspaper and TV coverage was sympathetic to the young man who has seen his share of war in Sudan before he came to Australia.

Now things seem to have gone sour; a few days back, Majak, who in 2012, had been moved up to the senior ranks — which meant that he would probably play for the senior team this year — was suddenly suspended indefinitely by the club. He was sent back to Werribee.

Initially, no reason was given apart from the spinmeister’s line that he had acted in a way not in keeping with the culture of the club. Later, once rumours about his activities began to leak on social media, the club stepped up and said that he had been suspended because he had lied to them about going to a nightclub while he was supposed to be going through the process of rehabilitation for an injury.

The club had to speak up because other facts about Majak had emerged – he owed someone in the club money (it was said to be less than $1000) and he was in a relationship with the white girlfriend of a former member of the same club. And people were concluding that these things were responsible for him being suspended.

If lying at an AFL club is a hanging offence, then this is the first I’ve heard of it in 15 years. Many high-profile AFL players get into all sorts of scrapes during the season and off-season. There are plenty of incidents involving alcohol and women. There are barroom fights, there are scuffles and there are interludes of racism. All of this is par for the course in the AFL. And plenty of fibs are told about each and every incident.

Yet, when an African footballer tells his club coach that he did not go out at night — when in fact he did — at a time when he was supposed to be undergoing rehabilitation, that suddenly becomes so serious that he gets suspended indefinitely. One must note here that apart from the prestige involved in playing for the senior club, no matter how poorly it performs, there is a good deal of difference in the pay one receives, compared to what one is paid by the junior outfit, Werribee.

It seems much more likely that his teammates were quite sour about the amount of publicity that Majak was getting and complained to the coach. His teammates would have probably spread the necessary canards and the coach would have realised that the majority of players — all white, mind you — were not especially fond of this black man who has quite a good public following. And that would have translated to problems on the field.

Publicity is the name of the game in any discipline in Australia and Majak was getting more than his fair share – and he had not even played a single senior game yet. Imagine what would have happened if, as expected, he turned out for the senior team and did well. His name would have become synonymous with North Melbourne; the man would have become bigger than the team.

His prospective teammates certainly wouldn’t have liked that.

AFL club officials are economical with the truth all the time. But when a young man who is from a completely different society tells a white lie, he is crucified. And it has nothing to do with race. Nothing at all.


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