By Bilal Ali
Ahmed Saad is a former Australian Football League (AFL) player who now serves as the Multicultural and Bachar Houli Programs Manager at the AFL.
Born in Australia, Saad moved to Egypt with his parents when he was eight-years-old. There he played soccer at the highest level for his respective age groups, rising through Egyptian top-flight side Al Ahli’s youth system.
Upon returning to Australia at the age of 14, he continued playing the round ball game for two years, but his enjoyment of the game began to wain as an inability to get to training sessions mixed with a developing new love for Aussie Rules football began to take over.
“I went to Roxburgh Park Secondary College, then across the road at Roxburgh Park Football Club they needed numbers for the team, and I started making some friends there and because I had already moved schools twice since I’d got back to Australia, I thought I might as well play some footy, and it was a minute away from my house,” Saad recalled of his earliest days playing Aussie Rules Football.
“I had good attributes for it; speed, my agility, my jumping, my hands, they were all pretty good, but I couldn’t kick, I couldn’t drop punt at all. That was pretty much the first I was kicking a footy, when I was 16,” Saad said.
“Fast track to five years later I was lucky enough to be drafted by the Saints (St Kilda FC), before that I played at the Northern Bullants (now the Northern Blues) in the VFL for three years, and got drafted as a mature-age recruit from there,” he said.
Saad made 33 appearances for St Kilda Football Club between 2012 and 2015, kicking 48 goals.
“In my first year I won the best first year player award at the club, so it was looking good.
“Throughout my time, I played for two years, got banned for one year, and then came back another year and got delisted after that.
“While I was playing in the AFL I did a lot of work with the multicultural programs, and really enjoyed it.
“I was a multicultural ambassador, and ideally I would’ve liked my career to go for a lot longer and then fall into these programs after that, but my career was obviously pretty short so I was lucky enough that I did that work while I was playing.
“As soon as I got delisted, Ali Fahour who’s a good friend of mine, was heading up the Multicultural Department at the AFL at the time and there was a job there for me,” Saad recounted.
Since the end of his professional playing career, Saad has continued playing local football and dedicated the majority of his time to giving back to the community, most prominently through his work as a mentor in the Bachar Houli Foundation, as well as managing the Foundation’s programs nationwide.
“I really enjoy what I do, I’m still involved with my community, and it keeps me involved in sport and coaching.
“My role in the programs is to ensure that each program is run to an elite level and to try to organise and design these programs based on AFL programs and what I’ve learnt in my short time in the system.
“I try to pass on the knowledge that I’ve learnt to the kids that come through the Bachar Houli Programs, through the training sessions we run and also through the leadership sessions,” Saad said.
Saad has experienced both the highs and lows of professional sport, so he is uniquely adept at relaying the feelings of success and falling short of your goals to the young aspiring footballers he mentors.
“We teach the kids that come through the Bachar Houli Foundation to be resilient, to not focus too much on outcomes and to focus instead on working hard and controlling what is actually in your control,” Saad said.
Ahmed Saad will be one of the mentors heading the upcoming Bachar Houli Junior Academy from the 29th of June to the 1st of July.