Bachar Houli made history in 2008 as the first practicing Muslim to play in the AFL making his debut for Essendon having graduated from the Victorian Metro Under 18 team and being picked at number 42 in the draft.
Houli’s parents migrated from Lebanon to Melbourne’s western suburbs 30 years ago and Houli’s parents were initially unimpressed with his desire to play Australian football. His persistence and graduation through the AFL game development pathways was so consistent that his parents were won over to the game once they saw their son’s role model potential for the Lebanese and wider Islamic community. His parents were also impressed with the inclusive model put in place at Essendon under Kevin Sheedy in which their son’s religious commitments were respected and worked into the club culture.
Bachar’s popularity since playing first team football at Essendon has been significant with the forming of a dedicated Lebanese Australian cheersquad named the “Houli Dooleys” and through his role as a role model for the AFL multicultural progam.
Sports Without Borders awarded an Achievement Award grant to Bachar for his persistence in achieving his goals and to assist him with the costs of being a professional footballer.