Afghan-born Maziar Kouhyar reveals he was called 'terrorist' by Walsall team-mate sparking huge training-ground bust-up

MAZIAR KOUHYAR has recalled the moment one of his Walsall team-mates called him a 'terrorist'.

The 23-year-old moved to Birmingham with his family from Afghanistan in 1998 and became the first Afghan-born footballer to play in England's top four divisions.

 

Kouhyar signed for Walsall in 2016 – but is currently on the lookout for a new club.

The midfielder has finally lifted the lid on the racial abuse he received while playing for the League Two side.

He has claimed that he did not speak out before as he did not want to cause any 'trouble'.

As cited by the MailOnline, he said: "We were just training and one of the lads said something to me about being a terrorist.

"I laughed it off, but he said it again. When he said it again, I commented back something like 'you're forcing the laughter now' or 'you've already tried once, don't try it again' – just something to make people laugh at him.

"He didn't like that. We started pushing each other and the players split us up.

"A member of staff was there while all this happened, and heard it all and saw it all.

"So I expected I'd get called into the office maybe after training to see if I was alright, maybe the player would have some sanctions, but it never got mentioned again.

"I didn't want to bring anything up. I was trying to get into the first team and get more minutes, so I didn't want to cause any bad blood, any trouble that would stop me from playing, so I didn't mention anything either, even though it was hurtful to me.

"Calling me a terrorist was hurtful to me – my family fled from Afghanistan because of terrorists. Calling me that is a bit close to home."

Kouhyar also recalled an incident that happened on the team bus in Luton.

He added: "We'd go on the bus to Luton, which has got a large Asian community.

"They (his team-mates) would see an Asian family outside the bus and say 'ah, look, there's your auntie'. It's on a coach so it's in front of everyone.

"You have to take it on the chin. You don't want to be the awkward one who can't take a joke, which was how it got perceived back then.

"Now, with the Black Lives Matter movement pushing forward that kind of banter wouldn't happen any more, people understand the implications of it. Back then, they just saw it as a joke, so I had to see it as a joke.

"I've never thought to speak out because I've always thought in my head 'you're going to be labelled a troublemaker', but now seeing people like Raheem Sterling speak out about it, it's given me the confidence to say, 'if you've got a voice, you should tell your story'."

However, Kouhyar puts no blame on Walsall as a club.

He said: "It is nothing against Walsall – it's just the whole football culture.

"I had so many good friends at the club, but these things do happen all over football and we need to tackle them."

A statement from Walsall read: "As a club we have always prided ourselves on being all inclusive.

"Should Maz have raised any of his concerns at the time with the hierarchy here at the club, they would have been taken very seriously and dealt with swiftly.

"We have a zero tolerance policy on discrimination of any kind and would not condone any such behaviour.

"Even though he has now left the club we would of course like to deal with his concerns if he is able to provide specific detail.

"He was a valuable member of the club from the age 15 where he progressed through the youth ranks to earn a professional contract before sadly rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament in his knee in April 2019.

"Despite being out of contract in June, Maz completed his rehabilitation with the club before we parted ways in January 2020.

"Maz is one of a number of British Asian players who have followed a similar path with Walsall FC in recent years such as Netan Sansara, Malvind Benning and Jordon Sangha."

He racked up 32 appearances for Walsall between 2016 and 2019, but has since been released.

Kouhyar now works as a car salesman for Toyota while he searches for his next club.

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