World Football

A unique Ramadan opportunity for Muslim footballers

Salman al-Faraj of Saudi Arabia prays in the tunnel prior to the warm up ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group A match between Uruguay and Saudi Arabia.
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  • Unique opportunity for Muslim footballers this year
  • Ramadan taking place during footballing hiatus due to COVID-19
  • Timing has allowed players to further observe religious duties and support others

During the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, the question frequently arises about the ability of athletes in general, and footballers in particular, to fast for a full month without this affecting their performance or physical fitness.

But for Muslim players this Ramadan, the COVID-19 pandemic had at least one silver lining. With all football activity put on hold worldwide, they do not have to fast and play football without even drinking water during the daytime. This Ramadan, they have a unique opportunity to perform their religious duties and spend lengthy periods of time with their families and loved ones.

New situation

Muslim players are experiencing a different Ramadan this year, as Algerian international player Islam Slimani told FIFA.com: "This is a good thing for Muslim players. In previous Ramadan months, I used to fast during training and matches because for me, as for all Muslims, Ramadan is a holy month."

Slimani, who plays for Ligue 1 club Monaco while on loan from Leicester City, and who also played in Portugal and Turkey, added: "Some players were unable to fast during Ramadan games. This year, however, they do not have this dilemma."

Youssef Mohamad, a former Lebanese international and former captain of German side Koln, said Muslim players had a great opportunity this year to experience the sacred Ramadan spirit without pressure from games or training.

"Football activity being on hold at present is good news for Muslim players," said the Lebanese. "They can fast in the holy month without being tired from training and matches. This year they can experience the special atmosphere that comes with Ramadan."

The former defender, popularly known as 'Dodo', also had a three-year stint with Germany's Freiburg and recalled the challenges Ramadan presented at that time: "During my time in Europe, abstaining was hard because the fasting period was particularly long. At the beginning, it was difficult for me to fast under the pressure of the games, but in later years, thanks to the dietician at Koln, things got a bit better."

Bangladesh Football Federation distributed Iftar boxes

Helping people

"Quarantine due to the coronavirus is ostensibly bad but it has a good element for Muslim players," French left-back Wilfried Moimbe told FIFA.com. "In the last few years, Ramadan came at a very difficult time – that is, during preparations for the new season, when training is long and arduous with two or three sessions a day. It wasn’t easy to fast at that time, as we needed to drink water to get some energy."

"Fasting at home this year has given me a chance to spend quality time with my wife and children and to help people in this holy month - something we were unable to do in the past," the 31-year old added.

For its part, the Bangladesh Football Federation used the suspension of football during Ramadan this year as an opportunity to help people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in the country. It currently prepares iftar [fast-breaking] food parcels and distributes them to more than 300 people outside its headquarters in Dhaka every day.

"The BFF is packaging iftar boxes every day and distributing them to the poor, particularly orphans, labourers, and other people in need," explained Ahsan Ahmed Amit, BFF Media and Communication Manager.

"With guidance from the BFF President (Kazi Salahuddin) and the head of women's football (Mahfuza Akter Kiron), we drafted a plan to help people during the month and until the end of the quarantine. A number of current and former national team players, as well as clubs, also helped the needy and provided food assistance in a step that demonstrated the major role that football plays in our society."