What do you get when you cross an inspirational Lebanese sportsman with a bunch of spirited Year 9 Glenroy College boys? You get a series of sporting-meets-leadership sessions those students will never forget.

That’s exactly what happened when former Richmond football star Bachar Houli and his team from the Bachar Houli Foundation visited Glenroy College earlier this term to work with a group of teenage boys.

How to be a young Muslim man of character

The sessions gave the Year 9 students a taste of what it’s like to be an elite footy player – and the hard work and commitment needed to make it to the top. But more than that, it also gave the boys an insight into what it means to be a young Muslim man of character and how integrity and faith can work together to give them a focus for the future.

The Bachar Houli Foundation aims to shape young Muslims and help them find a sense of purpose and direction through football. Houli started the foundation back in 2013 to empower young Muslims as role models and to help build connections between the Muslim community and mainstream Australia through sport. And, if you listen to the excited chatter from the Glenroy teens who got to take part in the program, then Houli’s team are kicking goals

‘Houli is a superstar’

The program ran over several weeks at Glenroy College. Student Mohammed Ali, 14, said meeting Bachar in person was the highlight. Bachar spent several hours with the boys, giving them a raw and honest account of his footballing journey and revealing how he balances his Muslim faith with other parts of his life. He also signed autographs, posed for selfies and answered a slew of probing questions about his footballing career.

“He’s a real superstar. He told us how it is being a footy player and what it takes to get to that high level. It’s hard work,” Mohammed said. “He’s a nice guy and listening to him talk about footy and about his faith was so interesting.”

A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity

Classmate Ali Mahmoud, also 14, described the chance to talk with Houli as a “once in a lifetime opportunity”.

“He’s a big role model for us. He was the best,” Ali said.

The boys spoke excitedly about the physical aspects of the course, which included training sessions that allowed them to test their fitness levels, footy skills and physical strength against the capabilities of real athletes. Students were also told about the importance of setting achievable goals and getting enough sleep!

“It was hard,” Mohammed said. “But it was so much fun too. We could see how much work they have to do. It was fun doing the training.”

The program finished with a football match, and an award for the student who had consistently demonstrated the values of the program. The winner of the Bachar Houli Foundation program award was Mohamad Abou-Eid (pictured above).

Want to know more about Houli? Then pop into the Glenroy College library and borrow his autobiography.