Bachar Houli

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Bachar Houli

Bachar R. Hashim El-Houli (Arabic: بشار حولي‎, was born 12 May 1988) is an Australian rules footballer for the Richmond Football club in the Australian Football League (AFL).  Houli plays as a defender/ midfielder.

He is the second devout Lebanese Muslim to play in the AFL.   Houli stated in an interview at the time of his debut in 2007 that he was the first practising Muslim to play for an AFL side, although he also acknowledged that prior to him, there had been two other Muslims to play AFL, these being Adem Yze (of Melbourne (Albanian Muslim)) and Sedat Sir (of the Bulldogs (Turkish-Muslim)).  He is the first Muslim to have won an AFL premiership in 2017.

Houli was born in Australia to Lebanese parents.

Houli said it was hard growing up a devout Muslim, and playing Australian rules football at the same time.  There was little organised sport played in Islamic schools, and he had to sneak out when he was young in his early years in order to play games without his parents knowing.  His persistence playing the sport finally led to his parents accepting and being supportive of his talents which led him to become an AFL player.

The young left-footer began playing football with Spotswood Football Club Under 12s in 2000.  After consulting with his Sheikh, Houli decided to break his Ramadan fast for three days during the physical endurance tests at the AFL Draft Camp.  This allowed him to record time to impress recruiters and be a viable selection in the AFL draft.

Houli was drafted with pick 42 in the 2006 AFL National Draft by Essendon.   He played four games for the Essendon Bombers in 2007 and kicked three goals.  After his impressive performances in the Essendon 2008 NAB (pre-season) Cup, he was selected for the Bombers Round 1 team to play the North Melbourne Kangaroos.  He played an important part in helping the Bombers secure a 55-point victory and received the first round nomination for the AFL Rising Star award.

Houli requested a trade from Essendon with a desire to move to Richmond.

After a lot of discussions between Essendon and Richmond, Essendon eventually received trade pick 3 from Richmond, at  the completion of the 2010 trade week, and Houli left Essendon and was drafted by Richmond with their only selection in the 2010 Pre-season Draft.

With increased opportunities at Richmond, Houli became a first team player in 2011 at Richmond (which he never did previously at Essendon).

Houli picked up three Brownlow Medal votes following a fantastic display for Richmond against Sydney in Round 21 of the 2011 season.

In round 14, 2017, Houli received an initial two-match suspension from the ’AFL Match Review Panel’ for striking Carlton’s Jed Lamb during the first quarter of the match between Richmond and Carlton at the MCG.  The AFL later appealed against this suspension, saying that the incident was “manifestly inadequate” given the impact of the ancient. Subsequently, Houli’s suspension was increased to four matches.

In the 2017 AFL Grand Final, Houli was considered one of the best players on the ground coming runner-up in the Norm Smith Medal (awarded to the best player in a Grand Final).

Houli played the first nine matches of the 2018 season before suffering a serious groin injury in round 10’s win over St Kilda.  He was expected to miss more than a month of football as a result.

Houli has become a leading influence for many young Australian Muslims.  His dedication and commitment to his AFL career has enabled him to become a primary AFL cultural ambassador in the Muslim community.   Houli has been likened to that of Hazem El Masri in the Rugby League community. He currently works one day a week as an AFL cultural ambassador.

Adem Yze, a Melbourne player from 1995 to 2007, was one of the first Muslim Aussie Rules players at AFL level, and Houli has stated his desire to follow in Yze’s footsteps.

He is also only the second player of a Lebanese background to play in the AFL (the first being Mil Hanna of Carlton).