Fasting & Football

Fasting and football. How do top-flight Muslims cope?

Ramadan offers a unique challenge as footballers train and play while their normal eating habits are suspended

By Tusdiq Din
Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Clubs increasingly like to control every aspect of their players’ fitness, testing them weekly, providing individual exercise plans and dictating diet. Sometimes, however, outside influences come into play.

For the increasing number of Muslims in the Premier and Football League, normal eating habits are currently suspended, for this is the month of Ramadan.

During Ramadan, which runs from 1 to 29 August this year, devotees are expected to refrain from taking in food or liquid, smoking and sex, from before sunrise until sundown. This is intended to teach patience, spirituality, humility and submissiveness to Allah. It is one of the five pillars of Islam, the others being a declaration of faith, giving to charity, praying the five daily prayers and the Haj pilgrimage to Mecca.

Managers and coaches may question the wisdom of a footballer having to train and play when fasting, but this is something that Muslims know is part of their life.

Some, like the former Tottenham and West Ham striker, Frédéric Kanouté, are strict observers. Kanouté, now at Seville, has been a practising Muslim since the age of 20. His faith, insists Kanouté, has never presented itself as a problem in his relationship with the coaching staff, team-mates or fans. But when it comes to Ramadan, they pepper him with questions.

“They’re quite curious, yes. They wonder why I don’t eat and ask all these questions, but you have to answer them. It’s good also because it’s witnessing the religion and we can talk about that. They see me praying in the dressing room, I don’t think of how people look at me, I’m just natural and it’s my way.

“Islam has helped me to be this way, so this is normal. It’s a path you take to keep you calm, to help you think about the place you live in, to love your neighbour. It’s strange when I hear about all these problems of terrorism because it’s the opposite of what I understood for Islam.”

In a diverse Premier League, an increasing number of players are followers of Islam. You’ll see them cup their hands in silent prayer before kick-off, then brush them over their face. Kolo and Yaya Touré, Nicolas Anelka and Samir Nasri are all talented players who would not want any fuss over their faith, but during the month of Ramadan, games can become even more of a challenge than usual.

In 2009, after only half an hour of Inter’s 1-1 draw with Bari, the fasting Sulley Muntari was substituted, with manager Jose Mourinho stating that Ramadan had “not arrived at the ideal moment for a player to play a football match”. His comments drew widespread criticism, which Mourinho later clarified by saying: “Muntari’s decision is not to be criticised because it is a question of faith and religion. That means that I accept it. I never said Muntari should forget his religion and practice.”

Some players compromise. Anelka has said that he initially fasted in daylight hours as prescribed, but “I realised I often got injured just after the period of Ramadan, so I don’t observe it strictly any more”.

A similar approach is followed by Arsenal striker Marouane Chamakh. “I have no problem fasting during Ramadan, it becomes normal. The day before a game and on match days I do not fast, but I’ll make up the lost days later.”

Ipswich striker Nathan Ellington converted to Islam seven years ago, and has just set up the Association of Muslim Footballers, whose purpose is to inform non-believers. He said educating the footballing authorities will help alleviate the type of comments that Mourinho came out with, which he described as “unfair”.

Ellington added: “When I’m playing, I won’t fast, but I’ll make up for the missed day afterwards. For training, there’s not a problem either, as you can get your hydration and nutrients with the suhoor [the early pre-dawn breakfast] which then helps. The only difference is afterwards when the rest of the players go off [to eat] and you have to hang on for a while longer, until the iftar meal at sunset.”

The Millwall winger Hameur Bouazza admitted fasting can be problematic, but said it was part of his faith. “I’m proud to be a Muslim. I’m not going to say [combining fasting and football] is easy. Ramadan is hard, and I try to do my best every time. You know God is there to help us, we believe in him and he believes in us as well. We just need to pray and believe in him.”

The issue of fasting and playing is a tricky one with the religious needs of the player somewhat at odds with the footballing needs of his manager and the club. Until now, there have not been any defining guidelines on the issue, but as more Muslim players find a place in the top leagues of Europe the issue of fasting during the holy month – which arrives annually 10 days earlier than the previous year – will not be going away.

Premier League Muslims

Marouane Chamakh, Abou Diaby, Samir Nasri (left), Bacary Sagna, Armand Traoré Arsenal Habib Beye Aston Villa Nicolas Anelka, Salomon Kalou Chelsea

Marouane Fellaini (left) Everton

Hatem Ben Arfa, Cheick Tioté Newcastle

Edin Dzeko (left), Kolo Touré, Yaya Touré Manchester City

Adel Taarabt Queen’s Park Rangers

Ahmed Elmohamady Sunderland

Younes Kaboul (left) Tottenham

Youssuf Mulumbu West Bromwich

Ali Al Habsi, Mohamed Diame Wigan

(Source: The Independent)

Advertisements

8 thoughts on “Fasting & Football

  1. I have also heard that there is at least one, but I have no way of confirming it and so shouldn’t be taken as fact but a possibility.

  2. (A list I found online) Take a deep breath!

    * Philippe Troussier – French Former Footballer and Now Football Manager
    * Bruno Metsu – French football manager
    * Bacary Sagna – French footballer currently playing for Arsenal F.C.[1]
    * Abou Diaby – French footballer currently playing for Arsenal F.C.
    * Marouane Chamakh – Moroccan footballer currently playing for Arsenal F.C.
    * Abdisalam Ibrahim- Somali footballer currently playing for Manchester City F.C.
    * Ayub Daud- Somali footballer currently playing for Juventus F.C.
    * Samir Nasri – French footballer currently playing for Arsenal F.C.
    * Nacer Barazite – Dutch footballer currently playing for Arsenal F.C.
    * Mohamed Aboutrika – Egyptian footballer currently playing for Al-Ahly
    * Emad Moteab – Egyptian footballer currently playing for Al-Ahly
    * Ahmed Hassan – Egyptian footballer currently playing for Al-Ahly
    * Mohamed Barakat – Egyptian footballer currently playing for Al-Ahly
    * Ahmed Fathy – Egyptian footballer currently playing for Al-Ahly
    * Sayed Moawad – Egyptian footballer currently playing for Al-Ahly
    * Wael Gomaa – Egyptian footballer currently playing for Al-Ahly
    * Sherif Abdel-Fadil – Egyptian footballer currently playing for Al-Ahly
    * Ahmed Adel – Egyptian footballer currently playing for Al-Ahly
    * Mostafa Shebeita – Egyptian footballer currently playing for Al-Ahly
    * Jérémie Janot – French footballer currently playing for AS Saint-Étienne
    * Hosny Abd Rabo – Egyptian footballer currently playing for Al-Ahli Club (Dubai)
    * Mohamed Nagy ‘Geddo’ – Egyptian footballer currently playing for Al-Ittihad Al-Sakndary
    * El-Hany Soliman – Egyptian footballer currently playing for Al-Ittihad Al-Sakndary
    * Hossam Ghaly – Egyptian footballer currently playing for Al-Nassr
    * Ihab El-Masry – Egyptian footballer currently playing for Al-Mokawloon Al-Arab
    * Yaya Touré – Ivorian footballer currently playing for Barcelona
    * Éric Abidal – French footballer currently playing for Barcelona
    * Franck Ribéry – French footballer currently playing for Bayern Munich
    * El Hadji Diouf – Senegal footballer currently playing for Blackburn Rovers F.C.
    * Yıldıray Baştürk – Turkish & German footballer currently playing for Blackburn Rovers F.C.
    * Mohamed Zidan – Egyptian footballer currently playing for Borussia Dortmund
    * Nicolas Anelka – French footballer currently playing for Chelsea F.C.
    * Marouane Fellaini – Belgian footballer currently playing for Everton F.C.
    * Ahmed Raouf – Egyptian footballer currently playing for Enppi
    * Abdelaziz Tawfik – Egyptian footballer currently playing for Enppi
    * Ahmed El-Muhammadi – Egyptian footballer currently playing for Enppi
    * Abdel El-Saqua – Egyptian footballer currently playing for Eskişehirspor
    * Mahmoud Abou El-Saoud – Egyptian footballer currently playing for El-Mansoura
    * Amir Abdelhamid – Egyptian footballer currently playing for El-Masry
    * Salah Amin – Egyptian footballer currently playing for El Geish
    * Mesut Ozil – German footballer currently playing for SV Werder Bremen
    * Emre Belözoğlu – Turkish footballer currently playing for Fenerbahçe
    * Rashid Yussuff – English footballer currently playing for Gillingham F.C.
    * Amr Zaki – Egyptian footballer currently playing for Hull City A.F.C.
    * Kamel Fathi Ghilas – Algerian footballer currently playing for Hull City A.F.C.
    * Ahmed Abdel-Ghani – Egyptian footballer currently playing for Haras El Hodood
    * Ahmed Salama – Egyptian footballer currently playing for Haras El Hodood
    * Ahmed Eid Abdel Malek – Egyptian footballer currently playing for Haras El Hodood
    * Ahmed Said ‘Okka’ – Egyptian footballer currently playing for Haras El Hodood
    * Ahmed Kamal – Egyptian footballer currently playing for Haras El Hodood
    * Sulley Muntari – Ghanaian footballer currently playing for Internazionale Milano
    * Essam El-Hadary – Egyptian footballer currently playing for Ismaily
    * Mohamed ‘Homos’ – Egyptian footballer currently playing for Ismaily
    * Mohamed Abougrisha – Egyptian footballer currently playing for Ismaily
    * Moatasem Salem – Egyptian footballer currently playing for Ismaily
    * Mohamed Sobhy – Egyptian footballer currently playing for Ismaily
    * Ahmed Samir Farag – Egyptian footballer currently playing for Ismaily
    * Ahmed Khairy – Egyptian footballer currently playing for Ismaily
    * Hasan Salihamidžić – Bosnian footballer currently playing for Juventus F.C.
    * Mohamed Sissoko – Malian footballer currently playing for Juventus F.C.
    * Mohamed Shawky – Egyptian footballer currently playing for Kayserispor
    * Nabil El Zhar – Moroccan footballer currently playing for Liverpool F.C.
    * Miralem Pjanić – Bosnian footballer currently playing for Lyon
    * Mohamed El-Gabbas ‘Doody’ – Egyptian footballer currently playing for Lierse
    * Kolo Touré – Ivorian footballer currently playing for Manchester City
    * Hatem Ben Arfa – French footballer currently playing for Marseille
    * Didier Domi – French footballer currently playing for Olympiacos
    * Al-Sayed Hamdy – Egyptian footballer currently playing for Petrojet
    * Walid Soliman – Egyptian footballer currently playing for Petrojet
    * Mohamed Shaaban – Egyptian footballer currently playing for Petrojet
    * Julien Faubert – French footballer currently playing for West Ham United F.C.
    * Mahamadou Diarra – Malian footballer currently playing for Real Madrid F.C.
    * Lassana Diarra – French footballer currently playing for Real Madrid F.C.
    * Karim Benzema – French footballer currently playing for Real Madrid F.C.
    * Frédéric Kanouté – Malian & French footballer currently playing for Sevilla FC
    * Mohammed Abdellaoue – Norwegian footballer currently playing for Vålerenga
    * Mesut Özil – German football currently paying for Werder Bremen
    * Ayman Touhami – Morrocan footballer currently playing for Westside F.C.
    * Ahmed Hossam ‘Mido’ – Egyptian footballer currently playing for Zamalek SC
    * Abdel Wahed Al Sayed – Egyptian footballer currently playing for Zamalek SC
    * Mahmoud Fathallah – Egyptian footballer currently playing for Zamalek SC
    * Hani Said – Egyptian footballer currently playing for Zamalek SC
    * Mohamed Abdel-Shafy – Egyptian footballer currently playing for Zamalek SC
    * Shikabala – Egyptian footballer currently playing for Zamalek SC
    * Hazem Emam – Egyptian footballer currently playing for Zamalek SC
    * Moustapha Bangura – Sierra Leonean International footballer.
    * Arouna Koné – Ivorian footballer currently playing for Sevilla in Spain.
    * Mehdi Mahdavikia – Iranian footballer currently playing for Eintracht Frankfurt in Germany.
    * Ibrahim Touré – Ivorian footballer currently playing for Al-Ittihad
    * Mamady Sidibe – Malian footballer currently playing for Stoke City in England.
    * Ali Daei – Former Iranian footballer and coach.
    * Abel Xavier – Former Portuguese footballer.
    * Darijo Srna – Croatian footballer currently playing for Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine.
    * Philippe Troussier – Former French footballer and current manager.
    * Franck Ribéry– French footballer currently playing for Bayern Munich in Germany.
    * Khalid Boulahrouz – Dutch footballer currently playing for Stuttgart in Germany.
    * Ibrahim Afellay[2] – Dutch footballer currently playing for PSV in the Netherlands.
    * Hamit Altıntop[3] – Turkish footballer currently playing for Bayern Munich in Germany.
    * Halil Altıntop – Turkish footballer currently playing for Schalke 04 in Germany.
    * Hassan Sunny – Singaporean footballer currently playing for Tampines Rovers in Singapore.
    * Tuncay Şanlı – Turkish footballer currently playing for Middlesbrough in England.
    * Nihat Kahveci – Turkish footballer currently playing for Beşiktaş in Turkey.
    * Emre Belözoğlu – Turkish footballer currently playing for Fenerbahçe in Turkey.
    * Serdar Tasci – German footballer currently playing for Stuttgart in Germany.
    * Sami Khedira – German footballer currently playing for Stuttgart in Germany.
    * Hakan Yakin – Swiss footballer currently playing for Lucerne in Switzerland.
    * Abdoulaye Diagne-Faye – Senegalese footballer currently playing for Stoke City in England.
    * Abdoulaye Méïté – Ivorian footballer currently playing for West Bromwich Albion in England.
    * Zesh Rehman – Pakistan footballer currently playing for Bradford City in England.
    * Bouna Coundoul[4] – Senegal footballer currently playing for the New York Red Bulls in the United States.
    * Yusuf Ali – Somalian footballer currently playing for Pure F.C.
    * Hakan Şükür,
    * Nuri Şahin,
    * Malik Fathi,
    * Edin Džeko
    * Emir Spahić
    * Vedad Ibišević
    * Sejad Salihović
    * Elvir Rahimić
    * Ismaïl Aissati
    * Taye Taiwo – Nigerian footballer currently playing for Marseille
    * Rabiu Afolabi – Nigerian footballer currently playing for SV Red Bull Salzburg
    * Dele Aiyenugba – Nigerian footballer currently playing for Bnei Yehuda
    * Aiyegbeni Yakubu – Nigerian footballer currently playing for Everton
    * Sani Kaita – Nigerian footballer currently playing for Monaco
    * Lukman Haruna – Nigerian footballer currently playing for Monaco
    * Yusuf Ayinla – Nigerian footballer currently playing for Homplayer
    * Nicolas Anelka – French footballer currently playing for Chelsea F.C.
    * Franck Ribery – French footballer currently playing for F.C. Bayern Munich
    * Robin Van Persie – Dutch footballer currently playing for Arsenal
    * Zinedine Zidane French footballer played for France, Cannes, Bordeaux, Juventus and Real Madrid

  3. I think the list of Muslims in the EPL is far lengthier than the names quoted in the newspaper.
    Nevertheless, a good article that is enlightening and inspiring & should be widely read.

Join the Discussion

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s