“It never occurred to me that someone like him would be...

“It never occurred to me that someone like him would be...
“It never occurred to me that someone like him would be...
Bachar Houli celebrates a goal in the big AFL final in 2017; The first of three premieres in Richmond wins over four years.Recognition:Getty Images

George Megalogenis, author of the book 2019 The Football Solution: How Richmond’s Prime Minister Can Save Australiasays Houli, is an example of the diversity that thrives at Richmond Football Club. He robs the first six Norm Smith medal players to be selected at the 2017 Grand Final: Dustin Martin, the son of a former Bikie boss; Houli, the pious Muslim; Alex Rance, a Jehovah’s Witness; Shane Edwards, an indigenous Australian; Dion Prestia, an Italian Australian; and Jack Graham, a teenager from the northern suburbs of Adelaide.

“There’s never been a top 6 in a sports code in Australia that looked more like Australia,” says Megalogenis. Houli isn’t a cherry on top, either, given the political toy Australian Muslims have become over the past two decades. “It is actually the high point of this diversity.”

Megalogenis and Aly talked extensively about Houli – as well as Faith and Footy, Fandom, and Richmond – for the latest installment of Good weekend talks. The podcast delves into the final stories of the day and this week reveals the remarkable career of the first practicing Muslim to play in the AFL on a Saturday Good weekend Profile: On a flank and a prayer.

Megalogenis and Aly are, of course, devout tigers. Aly was brought into the herd by his older brother Megalogenis from his mother, who apparently recognized the wisdom of sending her children to school with fidelity to a football club. The public intellectuals discussed the Bachar Houli Foundation, which exists to connect Muslim children to their identity, but also to encourage them to play Australian rules – and play them well enough to formulate them – and also about that Lack of elite level footballers from the Middle East and Asia.

“There’s a question about whether the AFL is doing enough, but I think at some point we should acknowledge that different cultures are being passed on to sport in different ways and that this may not be something the AFL can overcome or even worry about should do, “says Aly. “I don’t think it’s up to the AFL to try to colonize all cultures.”
Bachar Houli and Waleed Aly together on the Umrah in 2018 on a pilgrimage to Mecca, which Muslims can undertake at any time of the year. Recognition:Courtesy of Bachar Houli

Megalogenis points out that most research on non-English speaking migrants suggests that footy simply isn’t a priority. “Parental expectation is when they play something to play a musical instrument. It’s not about doing sports, ”he says. “Education is the main focus.”

The conversation shifted from comparisons between Houli and former indigenous star Michael Long regarding the impact on their communities to the profound impact Houli had on Richmond.

Aly says his favorite moment “Bachar Houli” actually came from an Essendon game: Houli’s first goal was his first kick in his first game against North Melbourne in 2007.

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“I felt like I was walking into the ground that something important was at stake here,” says Aly. “Here this guy was on a public stage, where Muslims are only really cast as villains in a kind of hero role.”

Aly rode every bump and device like it was going to happen to him, but still wondered if Houli was really one of them. “Then he scored that goal and it was like, ‘Oh, he heard’. And if is heard, then maybe a few of us belong to it, and maybe we belong to some places that are not just footfields. ”

For the full feature story, see Good Weekend on Saturday or at Age, Der Sydney Morning Herald and Brisbane Times.

Listen to more episodes by subscribing to them Good weekend talks Wherever you can get your podcasts.

Konrad Marshall is a senior writer on Good Weekend.

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