Cricketer Mark Vermeulen, who was banned by Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) late last year over a racist slur, is back playing the game again in the country.by Kevin Mapasure
Vermeulen was banned indefinitely in October after a Facebook post on his account in July last year, where he labelled blacks “apes”.But barely three months after ZC announced his ban, the cricketer will mark his return on Friday representing Mashonaland Eagles in a Logan Cup match against Matabeleland Tuskers at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo.
He has been practising at Harare Sports Club of late, but he will not be in the team that lines up against Tuskers in a Pro-50 encounter today.
Despite his apology when the post was first published by NewsDay Sport, ZC slapped a ban revealing that the batsman had admitted he was responsible for the post.
Vermeulen’s post read in full: “Haaaaaa a a a!!!!!!!!!! If we had left them in the bush and never educated them, Prosper [Utseya] wouldn’t be having these problems because he would be living happily in his mud hut eating ground up maize so of course it’s our fault every single problem a black has is because of white people that’s why racism is only able to work one way because we basically f***d up the apes’ lives.”
He said he was contributing to a thread that was discussing fellow cricketer Prosper Utseya’s alleged racial segregation by former ZC director Alistair Campbell.
After effecting the ban, ZC released a media statement that read in part: “Racism is abominable and there can be no defence for it. Mark Vermeulen has been banned from participating in all cricket activities after he owned up to repulsive remarks that reflect racism, prejudice and plain ignorance. We find Vermeulen’s Facebook comment distasteful and unacceptable, particularly for a senior sportsman who should have learned from playing in Zimbabwe and abroad that there is no place for racism in sport.”
ZC had not responded at the time of going to print last night on the latest developments, but it is understood the controversial cricketer might have issued another apology and plea to be allowed to play the sport again.
Soon after the story was first published, Vermeulen issued a public apology, where he said what he had said about Utseya in his post was normal in cricket.
He said that he had long apologised to Utseya personally before the story was published.
“I apologised to Prosper personally about the issue and he accepted my apology,” Vermeulen wrote in his statement. “I know my comments were over the top and I apologise to all that I have offended. But as a cricketer, it’s how our minds work. I will give you an example. In 2004 when I walked out to bat at Sydney Cricket Ground in the second innings of the second Test match vs Australia, I was confronted by four of the Australian players, who were all swearing at me and calling me worse things than I mentioned in my statement against Prosper. I then started playing some shots racing into my 40s; the Aussie fielders that were sledging me became quiet. So this is how cricketers’ minds work and, yes, I know my comments were over the top, but it was not meant in a menacing way. It was just a chirp that often happens out on the field of play and as men, you take the blow on the chin and get on with the game.”
Behavioural and disciplinary issues have long been a problem for Vermeulen, with trouble surfacing as early as his high school days in Harare in the mid-1990s.
He was banned from representing his school, Prince Edward High in Harare, for walking off with the stumps after receiving a poor lbw decision and locking himself in the changing room.
Later in his career he also burned down the Country Club grass-thatched pavilion, as well as threatening violence against a spectator while playing in England, where he received a life ban that was later lifted.