Hakeem Al-Araibi Thanks Pascoe Vale Team on Its Campaign, Recounts his Experience Details
2019-02-21 - 10:05 p
Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): An Australian newspaper said that the Bahraini refugee Hakeem Al-Araibi has heaped praise on his coach and teammates for orchestrating the publicity campaign that led to his release from a Thai prison this month after 11 weeks behind bars.
The sports "The Age" newspaper said that Al-Araibi has revealed big ambitions now he is back in Australia, saying he will be eyeing a place with an A-League team in the future.
"I came here as a refugee. In Bahrain they follow me. When I left Australia I don't know what they going to provide if I go back to Bahrain - maybe they going to kill me," he said on Wednesday night, at his second training session for his semi-professional club Pascoe Vale since his return.
"I was scared but I always believed that I would get back to Australia. Many people from Australia and from the embassy in Thailand worked very hard and they visited me in the jail and they promised me.
"I am very excited to be here, to see all the players here. I will work hard for my future and for this country as well.
"I will start the training now and do my best. I want to see my future. I want to be in the A-League in the future. I am not ready now, but if I work hard, get better, maybe," Al-Araibi stressed.
Araibi said he was tortured by Bahraini authorities after being arrested in 2012 and convicted on trumped-up charges of vandalizing a police station. He feared being tortured, or even killed, if he was returned to Bahrain.
"Unfortunately the government of Bahrain did not respect me, so I left Bahrain. It was not good against some people," Al-Araibi said, indicating that "The government is Sunni. Bahrain, 60 per cent of people are from Shia, but the government is from Sunni. There are no democratics in Bahrain. When the Shia says something the government of Bahrain stop everyone."
He went on to say "I am Shia. I was 19 years old when I left Bahrain, I was a player in the Bahrain national team, but they didn't respect me."
Hakeem spoke from the heart of his gratitude to the people of the club - its coach, Vitale Ferrante, and his teammates, who had first raised the alarm of his imprisonment and started the publicity campaign that snowballed to such effect.
"My teammates gave me a very special welcome back when I returned to training on Monday. They supported me and my wife - it's why I will always support this club and I want to work hard for this club," he said.
"I was so happy on Monday, I see every player here, I see many fans come and watch training. In the training I was tired because I didn't touch the ball since November. I was so tired. But it just makes me want to work hard."
He added "I did some exercise in prison, but it's a very small area. There is not enough room for a football player to get fit."
"I could run a little bit, but there are many people in the jail, it's very hard for me to find the space.
"And I was thinking too much about the outside, I didn't know whether I was going to Bahrain or Australia, and I was scared."
The newspaper said that Hakeem needs to spend several weeks building up his strength but has plans to return to action within a month if he can.
Pascoe Vale members, along with thousands of Australians, lobbied their MPs, wrote messages of support on social media and put pressure on the Thai and Bahraini governments to secure his release.