FIFA Demands Release Of Refugee Footballer Detained In Thailand
International demand is growing for the release of refugee footballer Hakeem Al Araibi, who has been detained in Bangkok since November.
Al Araibi, who was granted refugee status in Australia in 2017 and is now a permanent resident, was detained by Thai authorities on request of Bahrain on November 27, while on his honeymoon with his wife in Thailand.
He is a former Bahrainian international player, and now plays for Melbourne football club Pascoe Vale FC in the Victorian National Premier League -- the second tier of the Australian league system.
The chorus demanding Thai authorities release Al Araibi to return to Australia has been joined by FIFA, the governing body of world football.
"FIFA is again calling for a humane and speedy resolution of the case concerning the player Hakeem Al Araibi," it said in a statement.
"FIFA is therefore calling on all relevant authorities to take the necessary steps to ensure Mr Hakeem Al Araibi is allowed to return safely to Australia where he can resume his career as a professional footballer."
Australian foreign affairs minister Marise Payne will visit Al Araibi during an official trip to Thailand this week, and will lobby the Thailand Ministry of Foreign Affairs for his release.
"I will also advocate for the safe return to Australia of Mr Hakeem Alaraibi, who is currently detained in Thailand," she said.
"Mr Alaraibi was granted permanent residency by the Australian Government in recognition of his status as a refugee."
After the meeting, Payne said she had "reiterated" concerns to the Thai Deputy Prime Minister about Al Araibi's return to Bahrain.
A protest, backed by Amnesty International Australia, was held outside the Sydney Opera House on Thursday. Former Socceroo and now football commentator, Craig Foster, has also lent his voice to the campaign for the footballer's freedom.
Foster appeared on The Project on Thursday night said he the outcome of Thursday's meeting between Payne and Thai officials was "disappointing".
"It just says to us that the case for Hakeem is ongoing, we expected that anyway," he said.
"We welcomed her support... but we were hopeful she might have some better news."
Foster said Al Araibi was was caught in a "horrible situation", and his criticism of the Asian Football Confederation president Salman Bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa n-- the cousin of the King of Bahrain -- is why it is believed Bahrain want him to be returned.
"But his human rights dictate that Thailand must release him immediately."
The Football Federation of Australia has been vocal in its support of Al Araibi since he was detained.
"Over the last week, FFA has written to the Foreign Minister of Australia expressing its support for Mr. al-Araibi and has been in regular contact with the Australian Government," it said in December.
"Separately, FFA has written to the Ambassador of Thailand to Australia to formally express a desire for Mr. al-Araibi to be returned safely to Australia. A copy of this letter was also provided to the Football Association of Thailand."
In 2014, Al Araibi was arrested and beaten in detention in Bahrain for allegedly vandalising a police station.
Bahrain requested his extradition after he was convicted in absentia for vandalising a police station in 2014.
Al Araibi denies the allegations, and claims he was playing a televised football match in Qatar at the time at the time the crime was committed.
Feature Image: AAP