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Australia's Muslim community celebrates Bachar Houli's AFL premiership win

Richmond's Bachar Houli, the first Muslim to win an AFL premiership with his team.
Richmond's Bachar Houli, the first Muslim to win an AFL premiership with his team.

AAP: Julian Smith

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When the Richmond Tigers won this year's AFL grand final, beating the Adelaide Crows by 48 points, the club's defender Bachar Houli became the first Muslim to win the premiership — a milestone that has been celebrated by Muslims around the country.

Many expressed their joy by sharing news of the win on social media, some including the phrase "alhamdulillah", or "praise be to Allah".

Neil Aykan, the executive director of the Islamic Council of Victoria said the reaction from the Muslim community in Victoria was "euphoric".

"He's a great ambassador for multiculturalism and diversity in Aussie rules, and also a favourite son of the Muslim community,"

"I think he has done a lot of people, and not just Muslims, proud — to say that you could be the son of migrants, you could be a member of a CALD [culturally and linguistically diverse] community, a multicultural ambassador, and have the great honour in playing in this great sport of ours and actually helping your team win."

A young boy poses holding an Australian football.
Khodr Yehia hopes to one day play for one of the major AFL clubs.

Supplied: Khodr Yehia

Mr Aykan said that it was important to celebrate the sporting achievements of Australian Muslims.

"Australians love sport. We're a sport-crazy nation. But Aussie rules football is at the top of everything — I think that's why people are euphoric about it."

Khodr Yehia is a young Muslim footy player who has been training for three years.

He said Houli is his role model as both a practising Muslim and a footy player.

"He's a good role model to us because he helps us see what's good in life and how to keep away from all the bad things," he said.

The 16-year-old played for a Melbourne suburban league this season, and has now been picked by a TAC Cup club, the Calder Cannons.

As a young Australian Muslim, he said that there is no barrier for him to play the sport that he loves.

"They know that I'm Muslim and they respect me," the Brunswick Secondary College student said.

"Australian people know that people [with] different nationalities and cultures loves playing footy — it's a fun sport."

A woman wearing hijab standing with a footy field at her back
Rana Hussain has never felt excluded as a hijabi working for a football club.

Supplied: Richmond Football Club

Rana Hussain, the marketing and fan engagement coordinator at the Richmond club also felt the excitement of Houli's win.

She said his role on the team sent a hopeful message to young Australians from diverse backgrounds.

"You can actually achieve what you want to achieve. It's possible.

"I think seeing [Houli] become prominent because of what he is good at and find success in that field — despite being a practising Muslim — he's defying what we all expect and often experience in society, which is marginalisation."

Ms Hussain said that regardless of the win, Houli has already proven that football players with different identities can be accepted.

"He doesn't compromise himself or his beliefs — he just steps out when he needs to. He celebrates with the team, and he's very much a team player, but if it's conflicting with his faith then he quietly steps out. He doesn't make a fuss about it," she said.

While Houli's win may be an example of how Muslims contribute in Australia, Mr Aykan said there is more to do.

"This is a good example and I think it will have softened certain people's views of Muslims," he said.

This article is also available in Indonesian.

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