Monday marks the end of the annual Ramadan Holy Month of fasting for billions of Muslims all over the world. The period which lasts for 29 to 30 days, is observed by Muslims as a month of fasting, prayer, reflection and community.
This also means footballers all over the world who practice the religion have to go through the process of intense training and competition matches without being on a regular diet.
Muslim players do not eat or drink anything during daylight hours but can eat one meal just before dawn and another after sunset.
In South Africa’s professional football ranks (both GladAfrica and DStv Premiership) there are hundreds of players who went through the process of Ramadan this past month.
FARPost spoke to a few players who ply their trade in the Premier Soccer League on what it means and the challenges of playing football during the month of Ramadan.
“Firstly, I have to thank the Almighty Allah, it was not easy but as a Muslim, you fast, you come to a big game without eating, without drinking water. You break (from fasting) exactly the time you are going for warm ups and it’s all glory to the Almighty Allah who gives us the strength, the ability the knowledge to carry on,” said Nigerian and Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila defender Biodun Alabi.
“We are used to it, it’s not our first season fasting and playing. We wake up early in the morning and eat before sunrise and during the day we have the energy to play. The adrenaline gives us the energy to go to the game, you know. It’s not so difficult but not drinking water and playing is difficult but we have to thank the Almighty for giving us the power,” added TTM striker Naeem Amoojee.
Gambia’s first choice and Black Leopards goalkeeper Modoue Jobe says all the clubs he has played for have been supportive during this period, except for when he was playing in Senegal.
“As a footballer and a sports person, it’s always very difficult without eating but with the challenges, we all try to cope because we all know football is about energy and eating good food that will make you perform. In my career, the only team that stopped me from fasting is the club from Senegal (FC Ndiambour) but all the clubs I played for, give us the time to fast because the majority of players fast. They don’t tell you not to fast but they will tell you that if you fast you are not going to play. But even in my national team, the whole squad we fast and go and play,” he said.
Cape Town Spurs head coach Shaun Bartlett says although they don’t have a huge number of players who were fasting during the period, they still provide the necessary support for players who practice Muslim.
“As a club, we always support the players, religiously also we have to make sure that the players are not only in the right frame of mind but also whatever he needs as far as what he needs to practice. So, for us as a club we support as a technical team and players also help each other,” said Bartlett.
Some of the world football stars who also observe the Ramadan period include Paul Pogba, Karim Benzema, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah.