The SANFL has created a pathway for Muslim children to be introduced to Australian rules football.
- The SANFL is holding the Bachar Houli Cup carnival this week
- It’s hoped the event will increase participation in football with children from Muslim backgrounds
- More schools and children are joining in playing 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.
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.
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.”
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.”