Bachar Houli Cup bigger than ever

The NSW edition of the Bachar Houli Cup, an AFL competition for year 9/10 students attending Islamic schools, was played out in Western Sydney last week.

Under sunny skies  on Wednesday at Progress Park in Auburn, almost 100 youngsters from five Islamic schools played round robin matches in the late morning and early afternoon.

Al Faisal College in Auburn, Malek Fahd Islamic School and Al Noori Muslim School, in Greenacre, Unity Grammar Collage in  Austral, and Green Valley Islamic College in Green Valley were the schools taking part in what was a spirited few hours of competition.

The Bachar Houli Cup, named after Richmond Tigers utility Bachar Houli, the first devout Muslim to reach the game’s highest level, was first contested in 2012, and has grown steadily since.

Houli, who was in attendance on Wednesday addressing the players and presenting the Grand Finalists with their silverware, admits he’s been blown away by the growth of the program he founded in conjunction with the AFL Multicultural team, which is now backed by Australia Post and the Federal Government.

“To be honest I thought the program would be confined to the southern states, so it’s been a great surprise and joy to see it take off in NSW and QLD,” Houli said.

“AFL is a fantastic game, and a brilliant vehicle for these boys to become involved in their local community at club level, and to meet people from different cultures, which I believe is crucial.

“I was impressed by the standard of play in Auburn too; there was some great talent, some of the boys had huge kicks, there was a lot of courage on display, and I can see they really enjoyed themselves.”

AFL National Diversity Programs Manager Ali Fahour made the trip from Melbourne alongside Houli, and though Auburn is a far cry from Victorian AFL heartland, Fahour says the game is quickly gaining traction in Western Sydney.

“I’ve been working for the AFL for nine years now, and when I came out to Western Sydney about seven years ago nobody had any idea what AFL was,” Fahour recalled.

“To come to Auburn now and see people who know who the GIANTS are, have heard of Bachar Houli, and have kicked a Sherrin is phenomenal; the progress that’s been made since the GIANTS have entered the AFL is incredible.”

Below is a selection of photos from the NSW Bachar Houli Cup, head to the AFL NSW/ACT facebook page for more.