Bachar Houli - The sacrifices of a young AFL player
Roving reporter Nisa talks to Bachar Houli about what it takes to be a young player in today's AFL.
"OMG he is so cute," said one excited high school girl to another as she pointed to the picture of a young athletic Essendon player.
The other girl smiled in response.
This is generally the reaction Bachar Houli, 21-year-old Essendon Bombers midfielder, receives from his teenage fans.
However last week I went in search of something more. I was determined to find out about the highlights of Houli's career as a young AFL player, the sacrifices and choices he had to make in his life and some advice he would give to emerging players.
Personally speaking, there were two striking elements to Houli's life. The first was that he was playing for a great team at a very young age. The second was that he was the first devout Muslim AFL player in Australia.
What Hazem el-Masri was to the NRL's Bulldogs, Bachar Houli was to the Bombers.
Setting the goal
Houli was born in 1988 in Australia to Lebanese parents. It was very early on in his life, when he was 14 years old, that he set himself the goal to play AFL professionally. From the ages of 15 to18 he played at state level and the results of his strength and determination were showing.
But it was not as easy as he thought it to be.
"Playing at state level I was getting a lot of injuries so I started doubting myself a little," he explains. "Was I good enough? Was I going to make it? Was my body going to hold up? A lot of people started to doubt me at the time, saying that I was too slow, not fit enough and that I was not going to make it. This made me put my head down and work extremely hard."
Houli categorises the sacrifices he has made in his life into four crucial areas.
- Not going out: Houli doesn't go out at night much and he makes sure to choose his friends wisely. He has to be home at the right time and this enables him to focus on his training and his school the next day.
- Sleeping: Houli gives up valuable sleeping time because he has to get up early for training and prayer. Despite being a straining ordeal, it has made him physically, emotionally and spiritually stronger.
- Dieting: To succeed as a professional AFL player meant Houli had to eat well. Therefore, while his mates go McDonalds or have their pizzas, he stays at home cooking his own healthy stir fries. He also has to stay away from his mother's delicious food due to Lebanese food being so heavy.
- Recovering: After every training session Houli spends time recovering. This is crucial for him given the impact games have on his body.
The best choice Houli admits making in his life is making good friends. "Choose the right friends," he says. "Those that lead you in the right direction, encourage you to get the most out of yourself, someone to pull you up, give you confidence."
Leadership is important
Houli emphasises that a good AFL player must have the necessary leadership skills. He explains that such skills do not mean that one has to speak up all the time.
"I captained the state team for three years and I wasn't a massive speaker. What leadership meant for me was staying disciplined, setting the right example and respecting others. You can't buy respect. It must be earned. So don't go shopping for respect, you must earn respect from others," he said.
Being determined and setting realistic goals was another issue addressed by Houli. "Setting yourself goals and ambitions is crucial," he highlighted. "Everyone's different. For me it was football. I set the goal when I was 14. When you set goals the result is more likely to happen than when you don't have anything in mind."
The last bit of advice Houli has is for every individual to try hard and put in the extra effort. "You can't cut corners, you'll only be cheating yourself," he says. "In order to get the best out of yourself, you have got to put in all the hard work."
Bachar Houli has become an important influence upon many youth, especially young Australian Muslims. His dedication and commitment to his AFL career has enabled him to become a primary figure in his community and his country.
We wish him the best of luck in the future.
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