The story of Hakeem Al-Araibi, an Australian refugee who was on a honeymoon with his wife in Thailand, then captured by Interpol and detained in Bangkok since November is as unique as it is baffling.
Vision of Hakeem with his feet shackled together as he arrived at court, begging Thai authorities not to send him back to Bahrain has sent shockwaves around the world.
Thai prosecutors submitted a request to the Criminal Court over Bahrain's request to extradite the 25-year-old Australian refugee footballer, meaning he will stay in prison until his next court date on April 22.
In a cruel sense of irony, Pascoe Vale takes on Heidelberg in the first match of the Victorian NPL season on February 14 - Valentine’s Day.
It’s an unwelcome reminder that Hakeem’s nightmare began when he travelled to Thailand on his honeymoon with his wife.
Labour MP Peter Khalil’s electorate of Wills is in the heart of Hakeem’s Victorian NPL club and he revealed that Hakeem's teammates miss the right back immensely.
“They are all mates and football clubs are like second families,” he told FTBL.
“They are doing their best to focus on the season. I was down there at training recently. For them the most important thing is that Hakeem gets out of jail.
“They are missing a really good right back but most of all they are missing a friend. Gonzalo Abascal Munoz visited him in Thailand and he talked about his morale and how he was doing it tough.”
Meanwhile, arguably Hakeem's greatest advocate for the last two months, former Socceroo Craig Foster,called on FIFA - who he visited - and the IOC to place sanctions on Bahrain and Thailand.
With Thailand looking to host a joint World Cup with Indonesia in 2034, Foster believes their chances of success are seriously damaged by what’s been occurring.
“You are going to have refugee players in and through Thailand and elsewhere, and you can’t guarantee their safety, so we think the 2034 World Cup bid is in serious jeopardy and that Thailand needs to understand that now,” he told FTBL.
“If this is allowed to run through the court system, it means that Hakeem will be incarcerated.
"That is already a sentence and that’s why it is imperative that it does not happen. They need to expel this case now and ensure that justice is done, by letting Hakeem come home.”