Houli legacy will live on long after his Richmond stardom

Houli legacy will live on long after his Richmond stardom

By Lance Jenkinson

The story of retiring Richmond star Bachar Houli is about more than just a boy from the western suburbs who could play footy.

From the challenges he faced just to get the chance to play junior football for his boyhood club Spotswood, to his family background and religious beliefs, and his incredible work in the community, Houli will be remembered for more than just being a top level footballer.

Houli will hang up the boots after 232 AFL games, including 206 with Richmond and 26 with Essendon.

The 33-year-old was one of the Tigers most consistent players, as evidenced by his seven top 10 finishes in the club’s best-and-fairest over the past 10 seasons.

He was an All Australian in the 2019 premiership season, averaging 28 disposals a game as a rebounding half back.

What a sight it was to have a bird’s eye view of Houli’s running, bouncing and delivering with accuracy.

Houli always saved his best until last.

He played prominent roles in the Tigers run to three premierships in four years from 2017 to 2020.

Houli is a role model in the community and has embraced it.

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He is always available for a chat, be it about football, his faith or his community endeavours.

He is a footballer, a people person and a community leader.

This author had the opportunity to speak with Houli straight after the 2019 AFL grand final.

What stuck out was his willingness to not only give you his time, but give quality time.

He was a man in demand and he made sure no one missed out, engaging with friends and family, mentors and even the media before setting off to enjoy the spoils with his teammates.

One of the lasting memories from that day in 2019 was Houli’s incredible sportsmanship.

While the veteran had every right to be selfish in that glorious moment when the final siren sounded, he went out of his way to console a number of the losing GWS Giants players, who were likely experiencing the toughest moment in their football careers.

For all that Houli has given to the game and the community, he understands that he is not bigger than the game.

“I have been fortunate enough to play at two great clubs and to be a part of the history of the game,” Houli said.

“Not only did I want to play as many games as possible, but I wanted to educate Australia about my faith, about the religion of Islam, the religion of peace.

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“I hope I have left a sense of peace in everyone’s heart.

“I sincerely thank the club and the AFL for allowing me to be me”

Houli got his start in the juniors with Spotswood in the Western Region Football League before he was talent identified by the Western Jets in the NAB League.

His passion for the game was such that he hid his participation in junior football from his parents, who preferred that he focused on his schooling.

It is never usually wise to go against your parents wishes, but Houli must be glad that he did.

Before too long, Houli was part of elite Vic Metro teams, captaining the under 16s and winning a national title with the under 18s.

The pathway took him to the big time, where he not only showcased his speed and high skill level to make a positive impact on his teams, but he used the platform to be a positive role model for the local community.

The Bachar Houli Foundation, which helps build young leaders within the Muslim community, was launched.

The AFL’s first Muslim football academy, the Bachar Houli Program, has now reached over 35,000 participants.

Houli’s on-field impact will endure in the record books, while his off-field legacy lives on forever more.

Lance Jenkinson

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