Houli gets the nod

Tuesday, November 28 2006 @ 11:48 pm ACDT

Contributed by: Ash Nugent

Earlier this year, WFN ran a story on a a young Muslim, Bachar Houli and his aspirations to become the AFL's first high-profile Muslim footballer. For those that aren't aware, the draft took place last Saturday and Houli was fortunate enough to have been selected by Essendon with pick 42.

Being selected to pull on the red and black must have come somewhat as a relief for the young footballer from Melbourne's western suburbs. During the AFL's draft camp last month, he faced a difficult decision. The draft camp not only looks at each indivdual's physique, such as their weight and height, it tests them on a variety of skills: from reaction times to a three-kilometre time trial. This year, Islam's holy month of Ramadan, which sees Muslims fasting and abstaining from certain activities, overlapped with the draft camp. Knowing that he would not perform his best with an empty stomach, Houli consulted family, Sheiks and other leaders from the Muslim community, and thankfully they gave him the answer he needed to hear; that under certain circumstances, people are exempt from fasting, and his case met the criteria.

Houli's career began with Spotswood in the Under 12s and he has gradually worked his way up the football ladder. This year he was a member of the (Under 18) National Championship-winning, Vic Metro side and hopefully his drafting will take him to even greater heights in the AFL.

The Islamic community has been criticised at times by both Australia's broader community, and even political leaders for 'not integrating'. Houli's selection by Essendon is helping to not only prove this criticism wrong, but it will hopefully provide a path for other Muslim footballers aspiring to make the big league. Furthermore, Islamic involvement in football this year hasn't been restricted to Houli's journey. Following the Grand Final, The Age ran an article on an Islamic panel-based television program, Salam Caf, which airs on Channel 31. For the second year running, the program has included a Grand Final segment as part of an episode, in which they take a look at that 'One Day in September'.

As a speaker for the program puts it, "we're there because the AFL has the most active multicultural project of any sporting code in Australia, (it) is keen on its multicultural outreach, and we're more than keen to oblige", a great example of the power of football.

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