Article synopsis: Another look into Ramadan and football after Sudan complains
Ghana’s football star Sulley Muntari Ali leaps to the defence of Ramadan at the merest mention of it. He practises it. He certainly knows its demands.
“It’s a little bit [hard],” he responds when asked how easy it is to cope with Ramadan demands. “It is a Holy month. I have to cope with it because it’s only 30 days and I will be fine.”
To the uninitiated, according to the Qu’ran, “Ramadan is a period in which Muslims are supposed to fast for a month except those that are sick or on a journey.” The practise, which is part of the five pillars of Islamic faith, comes with its own regime. No Sex. No smoking. No chewing gum. No eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset.
It is the lack of adequate eating and fluid intake that leaves people like Dr. Rabei Hussain, the Sudanese medic, concerned about Ramadan’s effects on sportsmen. The subject has come under the microscope again because Dr. Hussain argues the Sudanese could have perhaps performed better against Ghana had his players not been fasting. He says world football mother-body Fifa should consider altering its calendar in order not to disadvantage players of Islamic faith during Ramadan. “During Ramadan, any reduction by two per cent of body fluids reduces the psychological, technical and tactical concentration of players by more than 20 per cent,” he explained.
Dr. Hussain could be right. In his team’s 2-0 loss to Ghana, all but three members of his team were practicing Ramadan. In contrast, Ghana only had two players in the starting eleven on it.
In Ghana’s football circles, to state that Muntari is a star is accurate but it might actually diminish his actual status: he’s adored. His body functioned on less than half its normal energies and fluids to score Ghana’s opener in the World Cup qualifier against Sudan.
Yet two weeks earlier, Muntari could not complete a league match against Bari and after being substituted, his coach Jose Mourinho, remarked, “Ramadan has not arrived at the ideal moment for a player to play a football match.”
The Portuguese’ comments did not in particular go down well with Mohamed Nour Dachan, president of the union of Islamic communities in Italy. “I think Mourinho could do with talking a little less,” he told Sky television.
In the Ghana versus Sudan match, the Egyptian referees that handled the match were fasting.
“Definitely,” responds Sudanese coach Stephen Constantine on whether FIFA should consider considering the football calendar during Ramadan.
Hossam Alaidy, an Egyptian sports journalist, also thinks FIFA have got it wrong to allow matches involving fasting Muslims during Ramadan. “It is not only Muslims who practice fasting but also other religious groups like Christians and Jews. FIFA should be careful and fair,” he notes.
In fact, skipping Ramadan is not something of a religious felony; it’s an individual’s choice. It cannot earn players a few lashes on their buttocks. For example, in the last qualifiers, Morrocco passed a decree that allowed players to break their fast while Algeria played their match at night to allow players to eat. Yet Tunisia, another devout Islamic country, played their match against Nigeria in the afternoon.
Meanwhile, although there is no official FIFA position on the matter, the body continues to carry out research on Ramadan’s effect on footballers’ health. FIFA president Sepp Blatter, told goal.com: “It is very important that football can see beyond religion. But FIFA does not just ignore its impact. “For example, Doctor Yacine Zerguini, an eminent specialist at the FIFA Medical Assessment and Research Centre, has been conducting ongoing research on the effects of observing Ramadan for Muslim players that has been very positive.”
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