Ali’s bulking up the Bankstown Bullsharks

“I’ve played every sport besides golf,” said Ali Abdulatif, AFL NSW/ACT’s Diversity Ambassador of the Year in 2021. “Footy has the team environment, and you get a mixture of skills – kicking, marking, tackling, the celebration at the end, singing the song. Everything added together makes footy so exciting.”

Abdulatif has passed on his love of the game to his three children, with the two youngest (Hamza 10, Mustafa eight), playing for the Bankstown Bullsharks. Abdulatif coaches the U9 side.

For Abdulatif, sport is more than wins and losses. It’s about connecting people whose paths would otherwise not cross. Only about 35 per cent of the City of Canterbury Bankstown’s population speak English only, whereas 60 per cent of people in the LGA primarily speak a language other than English when at home. Around 45 per cent of Canterbury Bankstown residents were born overseas, with the most popular countries Lebanon, Vietnam, China and Bangladesh – it’s a very diverse community.

“Seeing kids getting involved and different kids with different cultures mixing in with one common thing: sport. It’s amazing, it just breaks down every barrier there is,” Abdulatif said. “Instead of being stuck in a bubble, you get to know different cultures. It’s just brilliant – sport’s the best way.

“There are a lot of diverse kids at the Bankstown AFL club and what I’m trying to do, with my Lebanese background, is driving some of the kids to come and try AFL. We’re in rugby league territory but why not? Once they get to try it and bring some other kids in, they have fun. I want to try and share my love for the game with the rest of the community.”

Ali Abdulatif is a shining example of an AFL fan putting footies in the hands of kids who may not have otherwise played. He’s creating friendships through sport that go beyond the boundary line to create a better community.

When asked what the award meant to him, Abdulatif said: “At the end of the day, what drives me is to give back a bit to the community. That’s the important part.”