Contributed by: Wesley Hull
Richmond defender, Bachar Houli, is one footballer who had given much of himself off field to create important footballing, academic and social pathways for young Muslims – particularly young male Muslim youth – to assist them on life journeys. The development of his Bachar Houli Academy, aimed at young Muslim males, and also the Bachar Houli Cup – junior matches for Muslim boys and girls in schools both important initiatives.
His role in the community has been vital in allowing young Muslims to navigate their ways through life at so many levels. His commitment has been unwavering, doing most in a selfless voluntary role.
One could be excused for thinking that his own role as a player for the Richmond Football Club is almost secondary to loftier goals – and perhaps in the grander scheme of things it is.
But today was as much Bachar’s day as any of his team mates, his club, or Tiger supporters everywhere. Today, along with his Richmond team mates, Bachar became a part of AFL/VFL history as he helped enormously as the Tigers downed the Adelaide Crows to take the 2017 AFL Premiership.
This was a day for Bachar to put aside his selflessness to community for a short while and be a part of something magnificent – something life changing in it’s own way to long-suffering Richmond fans.
Richmond won the AFL Grand Final comprehensively downing the Adelaide Crows by 48 points in front of a massive MCG crowd of just over 100,000 fans. The final scores saw Richmond 16 12 108 defeat Adelaide 8 12 60. Much of the crowd were ecstatic Richmond supporters, whilst many of the neutral spectators were happy to support the home Victorian team. Houli's team mate, Dustin Martin also created a record of being the only player to have won the Brownlow Medal, a premiership and the Norm Smith Medal (for best afield in a grand final) in the same season.
But Houli almost took the Norm Smith Medal honours with a magnificent individual game which saw his amass 25 possessions, 11 marks and five tackles as well as kicking an important goal. His contribution was so enormous for the Tigers that he polled 10 votes from the Norm Smith Medal adjudicators - just three votes behind Martin. It could also be said that whilst Martin rightfully took the honour of best afield, he could not have done so without Houli and the rest of the relentless Richmond defence effectively building an impassable wall across the middle and half back.
On top of Houli's tireless community work to develop the game within multicultural communities, today his tireless efforts went directly to winning a flag for Richmond after a 37 year drought. Prior to today, Richmond last won a flag in 1980 and last played a grand final in 1982. Houli and his team mates have well and truly closed the book on those chapters in between flags.
For all of his selfless community work, the 2008 Essendon draftee was taken at pick 42 in the 2006 National Draft. He left Essendon in 2010 and was nabbed by Richmond in the Pre-Season Draft that year. And the rest, as they say, is history for the devout practising Muslim.
Long after he retires, Houli will likely be entrenched within his community roles, creating a better life with better opportunities for Muslim kids Australia-wide. As Australian Rules football branches across suburbs, states and nations, Houli's influence will be felt. But for today, Bachar Houli deserves every accolade afforded to him by football fans and scribes everywhere for the incredibly valuable role he played in bringing a flag back to Punt Road.
For a short while he can revel with team mates in the glory of winning the 2017 AFL Grand Final with Richmond.
Then of course, the rest of his life calls again - and you can be sure he will answer.
(Picture: Bachar Houli and Daniel Rioli celebrate a Richmond goal - Source: Sporting Life)
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