PLAYING Richmond at the MCG on Sunday is about so much more than winning four points for Gold Coast's Adam Saad – it's about meeting a man he's looked up to for nearly a decade. 

When Saad was selected by the Suns in last year's Rookie Draft, one of the first men to extend their congratulations was Tiger Bachar Houli. 

It meant the world to Saad. 

Houli was the first Muslim to play AFL when he ran out for Essendon in 2007. 

Since then, St Kilda's Ahmed Saad (no relation) has become the second and Gold Coast's Saad, the third. 

Since being drafted, the 21-year-old dashing defender has kept in regular contact with Houli via phone and text.

Saad hopes to finally meet him in person on Sunday.

"I looked up to him when I was younger and I just wanted to be like Bachar when I grew up, and here I am today – I'm so grateful," Saad told

"It means a fair bit to play against Bachar … it's going to be a special day on Sunday."

Saad said Houli was a role model in the Muslim community who gave him the confidence he could make it to the AFL.

And after a year starring for Coburg in the VFL, Saad has transferred to the big time with barely a hiccup, playing 14 games this season and turning heads with his blistering speed from half-back. 

Saad said he had watched Houli from the moment he stepped into the AFL and admired the way the Tiger balanced religion and his footy. 

"He's massive in the Melbourne community because there's so many Muslims there. Everyone really looks up to him. He's made us all proud," Saad said. 

"There's a lot of young kids that look up to him and Ahmed Saad as well.

"When I saw a Muslim in the AFL it gave me great confidence anyone could make it."

Bachar Houli's work amongst the Melbourne Muslim community has been tireless. Picture: AFL Media


Saad is active in Gold Coast's Muslim community, regularly visiting an Islamic school and a mosque near to his home.

He recently finished the month-long Ramadan, where Muslims fast from dawn until dusk as one of the five pillars of Islam.

Saad said the Suns were a huge help in balancing his lifestyle, allowing him to return to the club at night to complete gym sessions once he'd rested, eaten and regained energy.

"All the boys have been really good and they just want to ask questions and learn," he said.

"On the last day we had a massive feast to celebrate me finishing, which was a really special day for me." 

Just as he hopes Sunday will be, ideally with a victory for the Suns.