'I Will Be More Strong Than Before': Hakeem al-Araibi Can't Wait To Get Back To Playing Football
Hakeem al-Araibi has thanked his supporters after he touched down in Melbourne, bringing to an end his months-long ordeal in a Thai prison.
"When he got in today, the first thing he said was about his wife," said former Socceroos captain Craig Foster, the man instrumental in securing the release of the refugee from a Thai prison on Monday.
"And then he started talking about playing, saying 'I'm ready to play, I feel strong.' I said 'I'm not your coach, don't worry about it,'" Foster continued, to laughs from the panel as he spoke on The Project on Tuesday night.
"You don't have to convince me, just take it easy, see your wife, take some time."
Al-Araibi defended his priorities with a grin.
"All the football players stand up for me. I should do many things in Australia for football players. I will be more strong than before," he said.
Al-Araibi, 25, was detained in Thailand in November on an Interpol notice requested by Bahrain.
Returning to Melbourne on Tuesday to raucous applause from supporters, after being abruptly freed from jail, al-Araibi joined The Project to stand next to Foster.
Foster travelled the world pressing the case for al-Araibi, building a group of supporters that included FIFA, the International Olympic Committee, and a bevy of sporting superstars.
"I want to thank this person, his fight for me," al-Araibi told The Project, placing his hand on Foster's shoulder.
"He helped me so much... I want to thank him so much."
Al-Araibi thanked the Australian government, the public, and the domestic and international coalition of sporting organisations that backed his case, turning his imprisonment into a global scandal under the social media hashtag #SaveHakeem.
"I want to thank everyone who stood up for my case," he said.
As Foster watched al-Araibi talk, The Project host Waleed Aly said what was on everyone's mind.
"Craig, you're standing there like a proud father. Give him a hug for God's sake. Do something, this is the moment," Aly said with a laugh.
The pair embraced to applause.
"I'm just delighted to see him talking this way," Foster said.
"He's a different man to the one I saw in prison last week and a couple of weeks before that.
"I'm just staring at him thinking: 'wow, is he really here.'"
Al-Araibi's ordeal began in November when he was detained while on honeymoon with his wife.
"I am so happy to see my wife," al-Araibi said on Tuesday.
"I was crying from inside the prison. Now I am back in Australia I feel very happy to see my wife. I love my wife."