News Live Scores

I genuinely believed Hakeem was going to die - Craig Foster reflects on mission to save refugee

2:50 AM WAT 27/03/2019
Hakeem Al-Araibi
The human rights crusader speaks about the extraordinary quest to save a life

Craig Foster has revealed his fears for Hakeem Al-Araibi's life is what drove the campaign to save the refugee from deportation.

The former Socceroo captain believed the 25-year-old would be killed if he was sent to his home country Bahrain after being detained in a Bangkok prison for 77 days.

Al-Araibi was freed from jail and allowed to return to Australia on February 11, largely due to Foster's lobbying, with Bahrain wanting their former citizen to return to the Middle East to face flimsy vandalism charges.

"I just kind of decided that we need to put everything aside and save this kid. I genuinely believed he was going to die," Foster said in an interview with the Daily Football Show.

"The more we got to know the Bahrain Human Rights organisations...I got to know a gentleman Sayed Alwadaei (from the Bahrain Institute of Rights and Democracy) who was actually in the same cell with Hakeem in 2012. (Sayed) was in jail and was tortured himself.

"The more I got to know these people I thought, 'wow what sort of danger is this kid in? If he goes back we are not going to see him again'.

"If we didn't save this kid, there was a very good chance he was dead. I thought this isn't a campaign anymore, it's a life-saving mission."

Al-Araibi, who is now an Australian citizen, made his long-awaited return to football last Friday night as his Victorian NPL side Pascoe Vale defeated South Melbourne 2-0.

The central defender contacted Foster after getting back on the pitch - a moment the SBS pundit looks back at in surreal fashion.

"It was pretty amazing. He sent me a text the next morning after he had played. He was very excited - the message was pretty triumphant. It was a nice moment for him," Foster said.

"You just kind of look at it and say, 'geez, it wasn't that long ago I was sitting across from him and talking to him on a telephone through a perspex window when he was in prison fatigues'."

You can listen to Daily Football Show's superb interview with Craig Foster here.