In an ideal world, Hakeem al-Araibi would be taking to the football field for Bahrain against Thailand in the Asian Cup. Instead, the Australian-based refugee languishes in a Bangkok prison cell, cut off from his wife and family.
Al-Araibi, 25, has been detained in Bangkok for 45 days, caught in a legal tug-of-war between the country he fled and his new home, as Australia and Bahrain have both petitioned Thai authorities to hand him over.
Supporters urging him to be returned to Australia, where he is recognised as a refugee and has residency, rallied in Sydney on Thursday to seize on Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne's visit to Bangkok and the goodwill after Thailand moved to protect Saudi asylum seeker Rahaf al-Qunun.
Ms Payne said Thailand was "most certainly aware" of the importance of al-Araibi's welfare to Australia, after she spoke to Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Minister Prajin Juntong and Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai on Thursday.
"We are, as I have said, very concerned about his detention very concerned about any potential for the return of al-Araibi to Bahrain and I have reiterated those concerns to both (Thai) ministers," Ms Payne said.
"I do note there are legal proceedings underway in relation to Mr al-Araibi and Australia will continue to be in very close contact with Thai authorities."
Former Socceroo Craig Foster, speaking at the rally, said the coming days could prove crucial to al-Araibi's fate.
"One of the reasons why we're so supportive, not just because he's a refugee and we feel strongly about it as Australians and as a football community, but also because ... he's a human rights defender," Foster said.
"He's a very courageous young man who in 2016 stood up to the Bahraini government, stood up to Sheikh Salman [al-Khalifa] the president of the [Asian Football Confederation] and was critical of them publicly."
Foster said al-Araibi was only 18 when the turmoil of the Arab Spring engulfed Bahrain, interrupting his career. If he had been allowed to continue at the elite level, there was no reason why he could not have stepped onto the pitch on Thursday for the Asian Cup.
Fatima Yazbek, from the Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights, said it was encouraging Senator Payne had promised to raise al-Araibi's case with Thai authorities.
"Bahrain is a dangerous place for Hakeem today," she said. "There are more than 4000 prisoners of conscience in Bahraini prisons."
Al-Araibi's older brother is among them, having been arrested in the crackdown after the Arab Spring.
Al-Araibi, 25, was detained when he landed in Bangkok on November 27 for a belated honeymoon. He was sentenced to 10 years' jail in Bahrain on charges he denies, and said he was tortured there before he fled.
He held an Australian travel document when he landed in Thailand but was detained. On December 3, he was handed a ticket and boarding pass for a Jetstar flight to Melbourne, but was returned to custody three hours before departure. In recent weeks he has been moved from immigration detention to regular prison, where he has access to lawyers but is isolated from his family.
FIFA has also reaffirmed its desire for the Bahraini to be returned to Australia rather than extradited to his former homeland.
"FIFA is therefore calling on all the relevant authorities (in Bahrain, Thailand and Australia) to take the necessary steps to ensure that Mr Hakeem Al-Araibi is allowed to return safely to Australia where he can resume his career as a professional footballer," world soccer's governing body said in a statement.
Human Rights Watch Australia director Elaine Pearson said Thailand had a "terrible track record of collaborating with authoritarian regimes to return their citizens".
"Hakeem should be reunited with his wife in Melbourne, and he should be playing for his club, Pascoe Vale," she said.
"Under international law he is recognised as having fled persecution from Bahrain. This case really has ramifications far beyond Thailand and Australia, because if Hakeem is sent back to Bahrain it means that all refugees wherever they are in the world will live in fear of travelling to certain countries because of the risk they could be returned to the countries they fled persecution from."
Amnesty International's Australian refugee coordinator Graham Thom said Ms al-Qunun's case showed the value of public pressure.