In India, cricket isn’t just a game – it’s a religion, and the country’s fans are, in the truest sense of the word, fanatical. However, the usually positive passion and celebration they bring to their beloved game took an unexpected turn during the Australia tour of India in 2007.
Travelling the country with the Australian Cricket team, Worland was there to witness one of the most challenging moments in cricket history. As the Australian allrounder Andrew Symonds walked out onto the field, the 47,000-strong Mumbai crowd began to chant racist taunts in unison.
Sledging the Australian batsman for the colour of his skin, the crowd went wild, jumping around and carrying on – and the sheer force of their vocalisation was intimidating.
But for Worland, it was too offensive to ignore.
“How many people was I arguing with? Mate, I dunno – thousands?” he told The Daily Telegraph in 2008, “But hearing those monkey chants in Mumbai, mate, it disgusted me. I’m the softest bloke in the world but there comes a point when you just can’t walk away.”
Whether knowing it at the time, Gus Worland took on the feverish crowd, vocally fighting back as the crowd turned their attention from the pitch to him. Even when armed police strongly suggested he leave the stadium, Worland stood his ground.
“I was in the back row yelling down… and they all turned around and started yelling back at me.”
The incident marred an otherwise incredibly positive tour. As Gus pointed out, the usual hospitality given to the Aussies seemed to dissipate during the fifth game.
“It was all so disappointing because the tour had really been nothing like that early on. The Indians were great hosts but there comes a time when you have to stand up and say some things aren’t on.”
What Worland did that day took guts, and while putting yourself in a potentially dangerous situation is never encouraged, doing what you believe in must always be the chosen path.
“I mean, when you’re one of three blokes among 40,000 you sorta think ‘what can I do? But you just have to stand up. And mate, when it comes to racism in sport – well, I don’t think you really need to be a fighter to make a stand.”
Worland’s fight for what is right didn’t end there, and he has since gone on to pursue equally gutsy endeavours. After a very close friend took his life, Worland has been on a mission to break the silence around male suicide. His three-part documentary series ‘Man Up’ explores why suicide is the leading cause of death for males between 15 and 44, aiming to ‘affect real social change and hopefully even save lives’.
“6 Aussie males commit suicide everyday. It’s a frightening statistic. Something had to be done so I started Gotcha4Life, a program that’s encouraging men how to open up and be vulnerable. There’s this stereotype amongst Aussie blokes that we have to suck it up and get on with it. But that’s not a healthy way to live.”
Gus Worland’s gutsy approach to life is evident in everything he does.
“As a fan, there’s nothing holding me back. Whatever you find that you love and are passionate about, absolutely go for it. Why should you put a limit on anything.”
Watch Gus’ Gutsy story here:
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