The Australian football community will unite on Friday evening as refugee footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi returns for Pascoe Vale’s first home match of the season since his release from a Thai prison.
Hakeem arrived safely at Melbourne Airport last Tuesday, greeted by his teammates, human rights advocacy groups, members of the football community and supporters, following over 70 days of detention in Thailand on politically motivated charges issued by his country of birth, Bahrain.
Following a whirlwind arrival back in Australia, including a visit to Parliament House to meet the Prime Minister, Hakeem has spent the last week settling back into the normalcy of his local community and re-commenced training with Pascoe Vale on Monday evening.
While Al-Araibi is unlikely to feature in Friday’s fixture against Bentleigh Greens, his supporters, including PFA Life Member Craig Foster and Chair Brendan Schwab, Football Victoria, human rights groups and football fans will unite to celebrate Al-Araibi’s freedom at the match.
PFA Chief Executive John Didulica said the home coming for Al-Araibi would be a dual celebration of Hakeem’s freedom and the power of football uniting for a common cause.
“The campaign for Hakeem’s release demonstrated the potential of football is in this country; when football unites, there is no limit to what we can achieve,” Didulica said.
Pascoe Vale forward and Al-Araibi’s teammate, Davey van’t Schip, said he was looking forward to the community welcoming him home to CB Smith Reserve on Friday.
“Without Pascoe Vale’s initial work of getting the word out to all of the organisations to help Hakeem get back, I don’t think he would be here today. Hopefully there will be a big crowd and the club’s fanbase will be there to welcome him back and give him the big welcome he deserves.”
National Premier Leagues Victoria 2019 – Round 2
Friday 22 February 2019
Pascoe Vale vs. Bentleigh Greens
CB Smith Reserve, Jukes Rd, Fawkner