More Muslim children joining in Australian rules football through SANFL Bachar Houli Cup

The SANFL has created a pathway for Muslim children to be introduced to Australian rules football.

What started as the brainchild of two teachers has expanded into a nine-a-side competition across four schools this week.

“What we’re doing is reaching into a new market, but it’s not just about football, it’s about connectivity, it’s about community, it’s about all coming together,” said Tom Javor, the SANFL’s zone manager for the North Adelaide and Central District clubs.

“We’ve gone from one to seven multicultural Auskick centers at the campuses so [that] children have a place to play football.”

Two teachers — Katy Javor and Michael Triantafilakis — last year came up with the idea of ​​two Islamic schools playing a football match against each other.

A boy in a blue vest hitting a football in a field, another boy in the background
Students such as Malik Bressington brushed up on skills and took part in the competition.(ABC News: Michael Clements)

The SANFL quickly became involved and then the Bachar Houli Foundation was recruited through the AFL.

Bachar Houli played for Richmond and Essendon in the AFL, appearing in 232 games across a 15-year career.

His foundation seeks to foster harmony and provide development opportunities for young Muslim people through sports.

It created the Bachar Houli Cup to provide students with the chance to participate in organized inter-school football.

Richmond's Bachar Houli handballs against Collingwood during round 21 of the AFL at the MCG in Melbourne on August 22, 2015.
Bachar Houli retired from the AFL last year.(AAP: Julian Smith)

In Adelaide, what started as a four-team carnival for students in years 5–6 in 2021 has expanded to include years 7–8 this year.

It is known in South Australia as the SANFL Bachar Houli Cup.

“We have footy clinics in their schools and, obviously, the pinnacle of their year is to come to the Bachar Houli Cup,” Mr Javor said.

The first Bachar Houli Cup was played in Victoria in 2012 and has now expanded to five states.

Growing number of participants

About 300 students from Islamic schools were at the cup in Adelaide this year, with the carnival spread across two days.

All told, 14 boys’ teams and 14 girls’ teams took part.

“It’s really exciting,” said Ms Javor, a physical education teacher at the Australian Islamic College Adelaide.

“It’s not really about winning. You see the potential in kids that are there and they don’t even realize it.

“I’d like to see it continue to expand and it would be nice to see all the Islamic schools involved.”

A woman in a headpiece and dark jacket sitting on the sidelines of a footy field
Teacher Katy Javor welcomed the Bachar Houli Cup.(ABC News: Michael Clements)

Mr Javor said the students had embraced the game and it was a change of culture for many of them.

“By the sixth game, they’re setting up zones, they’re excited, they’re calling each other in and doing all the little things the senior footballers I coach don’t do,” Mr Javor said with a smirk.

“The SANFL has tried to forge a bit of a pathway for them by going to local clubs and talking to them about inclusion and diversity.

“The old age white bogan male being a footballer is not the case anymore — everyone is different and everyone is welcome.”

A teenage boy in a dark jacket tossing a football in a footy oval
Muhammad Daniyal goes for the ball.(ABC News: Michael Clements)

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