For many in attendance at the Bachar Houli Foundation (BHF) Employment Program Professional Development (PD) day, growing up there wasn’t anyone in similar roles they could look up to, or believe that a role in the football industry was a viable option.
But thanks to the support received from BHF, this group of 11 young Muslim adults are forging a path for themselves in the vast football industry.
Including both Males and Females, the cultural diversity of the group was also evident, representing countries such as Somalia, Sudan, Turkey, Lebanon and Pakistan.
The national reach of BHF programs was highlighted as attendees had flown into Melbourne from across Australia for a day of networking and PD.
The Employment Program run by the organisation intends to give young Muslim’s across Australia access and opportunities to work in the sporting industry.
As a first-time attendee to the program, Amal Hussan Ali was excited by the opportunity to grow, learn and network over the daylong session.
“I want to connect with other Muslim people that work in the football department as well, because I haven’t come across a lot [of Muslim’s],” she said.
Amal, a Community Programs Officer at the Western Bulldogs role focuses mainly on working with young people from the African community, designing programs as well as delivering and facilitating programs.
Amal sees herself in a unique position to set an example for other Muslim’s and in particular girls who may not know or see a career in football as a viable option.
“I think just showcasing and sharing my story, speaking to other girls or people from Muslim backgrounds that there’s more than just playing footy, or you don’t have to know the rules to be involved in sports,” she said.
There was plenty of time for networking amongst the participants, who also had the opportunity to improve their public speaking and financial planning through sessions run by a public speaking coach and MCCA respectively.
For BHF Programs Officer Mutaz El Nour, the public speaking session was one that he “really enjoyed.”
Through developing and implementing programs at BHF, Mutaz leans heavily on speaking in front of big groups of people, a skill he knows he’d love to develop further.
“[It’s] something that I wanted to work on [public speaking] with my confidence and how to speak in a public sense, since I do that as my job,” he said.
BHF prides itself on providing Muslim youth with unrivalled opportunities for their participants, this highlighted by Richmond’s CEO Brendon Gale stopping by for a lunch and learn session where he took the group through much of his career, with plenty of time for questions.
The group was attached to his every word, none more so than Sundus Mohammed, who was particularly gripped by Gales’ law background and transition into the football industry.
Sundus herself balances studying law at RMIT University with a role at Collingwood Football Club as a Media Assistant.
“I wanted to ask him about internships that he knows about in law,” she said.
“Because when I heard him say law, I thought this would be a good opportunity to ask him questions.”
Through her role, Sundus is exposed to both the football and administrative departments, her roles including, setting up press conferences, to writing community stories for the AFL Record.
It is a reoccurring theme amongst many of the attendees, growing up not necessarily following football and thinking a career in sport may be unachievable due to the hurdles and obstacles they face.
But that is a testament to BHF and inclusion programs they run, making a real difference in the Muslim community, helping to ignite positive change in an industry once thought unachievable.
This is not lost in Zakariya El-Houli, who after coming through the junior programs run by the foundation, found employment in 2023 as their Social Media and Communications Officer.
“The reach that the employment program has in terms of getting young Muslim’s employed around Australia, I think it’s incredible and hearing their stories today and their professional development, that’s what really excites me,” he said.
Growing up Zakariya notes how he wished he’d found opportunities like this sooner in life but is thankful now to be a part of BHF with hopes to inspire the next generation of Muslim leaders in the community.
“I’d like to think that I could be a role model one day for someone,” he said.
“A younger Muslim who would’ve been me a couple of years ago.”