RICHMOND’S Bachar Houli hopes he won’t be attending an international sporting ceremony in September in which he is shortlisted to win a major award.
He remains confident his AFL team will be playing in finals then, despite their meltdown against North Melbourne at the weekend which has shaken some of the optimism around the Tigers.
Houli’s Islamic Australian rules program has been shortlisted for a Beyond Sport Award – against international challengers such as the NFL and USA Swimming – to be presented in Philadelphia from September 9 to 11.
A Muslim and a multicultural ambassador for his sport, Houli goes into this weekend’s AFL multicultural round confident it can be a watershed weekend for the Tigers.
He believes the 62-point defeat by North Melbourne to end the Tigers’ four-match winning streak was a temporary setback.
“We just lacked intensity at times. These things happen in football,” Houli said.
“What happened on the weekend is past and we’ve got a massive challenge again this week against the Gold Coast.
“When you win four or five in a row, and you drop one, it’s generally does mean it’s a wake-up call.”
Houli, a late withdrawal from the North match with hamstring soreness, is confident he will be fit to play against the Suns in Cairns on Saturday.
Houli was among those to launch the multicultural round in Melbourne on Monday.
He believes despite some recent controversy around fan-driven racist comments directed at players, the game itself has enthusiastically embraced those from non-Australian backgrounds.
“(Some people) think this game’s a racist game. That’s not the case,” Houli said.
“The doors have been opened.”
Houli’s program incorporates the Bachar Houli Cup for Islamic schools played during the multicultural round, and the Bachar Houli Academy – an elite program for 14 to 16 year olds from the Islamic community.
By Guy Hand in Melbourne