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A time to reset as Houli identifies the real heroes

The dual premiership player’s brother specialises in hepatobiliary, a surgeon who often deals with cancer patients.

Bachar has always found Nezor’s efforts a source of wonder, growing up with admiration for the dedication he showed to his profession. But in the past few months, with health at the forefront of everyone’s mind, Bachar has reflected even more so on how strange it is that he, a footballer, could be held in greater esteem than his sibling.

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“I like to highlight the important role [doctors] play in society because I see it, I hear the story, I see the sacrifice. I see what my brother goes through. I see the way he deals with people on a personal level,” Houli said.

“These are the true heroes. They are quiet, they get the job done and they are making a massive difference in this world.

“I think they need to be put up on a pedestal and be commended for what they do.”

Houli had this view before the pandemic, expressing it when the hologram exhibit featuring the All-Australian defender was launched at the Australian Sports Museum in January.

But with the shutdown causing everyone to grapple with a new reality, he says his appreciation for what Dr Nezor Houli does has grown even more.

“He’s a leader within our family,” Houli said.

His brother’s influence might explain why the Tiger has become such a leader within the Melbourne community too, gaining enormous respect for his outlook on life and football and the way he has directed his energy to mentoring young people from all backgrounds.

This shutdown has coincided with Ramadan, the holiest month of the year in the Islamic calendar, which is a time Houli uses to reflect on his own spiritual journey, whether football is being played or not.

Richmond defender Bachar Houli (right) and his brother Dr Nezor Houli (second from left).

Richmond defender Bachar Houli (right) and his brother Dr Nezor Houli (second from left).

Up at about 3.30am every morning for worship, prayer and supplication, Houli eats his breakfast before the sun rises and is ready for what the day offers when light breaks.

“It’s like when you get up bright early go for a run, do your training and then have your breakfast and you have the whole day ahead of you,” Houli said.

“It’s amazing. I feel like I could run through a brick wall.”

He hasn’t had to run through proverbial brick walls lately of course with football in hibernation, but he has shown he can do it on the biggest stage, his performances in two grand finals marking him as a big-game player.

He has stayed fit during the break but his focus has been on engaging in the resetting process that Ramadan allows.

When asked how he is, you can almost hear the grin bursting through the beard as he replies over the phone: “Sweet as.”

“I don’t think I could be any more sweeter right at the moment,” Houli said.

“Ramadan gives you an opportunity to hone in on what is important in life.”

Faith and family are at the core of what is important to Houli and although he loves football he knows he can live without it, either temporarily or more permanently.

“I haven’t even had time to think about footy. People will say, ‘When are you going back, when are you going back?’ and I will say, ‘I’ll be honest I don’t really know and to be even more honest I don’t really care,'” Houli said.

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“If I am going to sit here worried about when am I going to return, am I returning Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, it takes my focus off other things I should be focusing on right now.

“Whenever it is time to go back the club will notify us and then, guess what, I will be back and back to normal.”

On Friday he is likely to find out when the game will resume. He’ll then be back at work – without a crowd, much like his brother – appreciating being surrounded by teammates and competing with opponents he knows want to topple the premiers.

But he won’t feel any different, his thoughts providing clarity in a week when external events seemed to provide little.

“I gotta say I am actually loving life right now is because I have got a greater purpose in life,” he said.

And greater perspective too, as he admires his role model brother.

“This is a incredible human being,” Houli said.

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