Football - More Than A Religion
VMC's Nadia Mahmood gives Planet Blue a fascinating insight into the impact of Ramadan upon tpp flight footballers and how the situation is managed at clubs such as Manchester City...
Last week saw the starting of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, this is a month where eating and drinking is prohibited during day-light hours for the duration of the month following the celebration of Eid, not disimilar to Lent and respectively Easter. The purpose of Ramadan is to increase spirituality, patience and to promote empathy for those less fortunate than ourselves, for whom food is a rare commodity.
It is considered acceptable for athletes not to fast whilst training, competing and playing during the month of Ramadan, provided they make up the missed fasts at a later stage. The UAE Olympic football team for example has been exempted from fasting during Ramadan as the holy month has coincided with the London Olympic Games. Most however see the month as an integral part of their religion and one which they choose to observe at the given time rather than later much like many of the Muslim footballers in the diverse Premier League including the handful of City players of the Islamic faith.
In the UK, where days are long, fasting currently means rising in the early hours of the morning for a meal and not eating a morsel or drinking a drop of water until after 9pm, Ramadan can be particularly gruelling. This marks an incredible challenge as the footballers train and play while their normal eating habits are temporarily suspended.
The prospect of having some of their most poignant players starting pre-season training followed by the start of the new football season on an empty stomach without even the hydration of water must be unnerving for some managers and coaches. Most memorably Jose Mourinho during his time at Inter Milan was heavily criticised for claiming Sulley Muntari should not have been fasting during Ramadan. Mourinho later clarified his statement by stating that he respected Muntari's faith and did not suggest he should stop observing Ramadan.
There is no such need for clarification at Manchester City where players are treated as individuals and where diversity and multi-culturalism is celebrated.
Since it's purchase in 2008 by the Abu Dhabi United Group resulting in the club becoming one of the worlds richest, it's subsequent sponsorship with Arab airliner Ethihad and the increasing presence and support of club chairman Khaldoon Al-Mubarak, Muslim players at City have been supported fully in their decision as to whether to fast or whether to off-set them to season breaks although Edin Dzeko, Samir Nasri and the Touré brothers have all fasted and played during a season at one stage or another.
Kolo Touré who considers himself a devout Muslim managed to fast throughout the duration of the beginning month of the start of the Barclays Premier League season in 2011.
'It doesn't affect me physically,' Touré admits. 'It makes me stronger. You can do it when you believe so strongly in something. A normal human can be without water for much longer than one day.'
It would be wrong to generalise and state that players who are fasting are at a disadvantage to those whom are not, each player should be taken upon his own merits, as fasting as with anything affects people differently. For example, last season Newcastle's Demba Ba observed Ramadan which coincided with the first few weeks of the opening Barclays Premier League season. Ba notibly struggled during his first few games and failed to find the net, however once Ramadan was over Ba became the hero of Newcastle with the chant:
'Demba scored 16 since Ramadan, he just can't get enough!'
Edin Dzeko on the other hand during the same period whilst fasting became the first player to score four goals for Manchester City in the Premier League against Tottenham Hotspur assisted by Samir Nasri for many of the goals including Nasri popping in one of his own during his City debut, yes, whilst fasting.
Ramadan along with the start of the 2012-2013 Barclays Premier League season will no doubt be a great challenge for players, managers and coaching staff alike, however at a time when the campaign for stamping racism out of football is at it's peak and the demand for top calibre international players is rife, Ramadan need not be treated as an alien or unwelcome concept within the footballing world. Rather it be treated as merely a small obstacle which most players such as those at Manchester City have more than proved they can both cope with and overcome with the understanding of the Club's staff and support of us, the fans.
So with this weeks fasts starting at 2am and finishing at after 9pm and pre-season training running simultaneously, perhaps we should all run a mile in fasting studs if only to help us further appreciate the innate talent that we are graced with not only at Manchester City, but throughout the Premier League.
all times East Manchester
TONIGHT 19h45 Oldham Athletic, Boundary Park, Friendly
Sat 04 Aug 20h30 Wolfsburg, Volkswagen Arena, Friendly (ESPN TV)
Sun 05 Aug 19h00 Limerick, Jackman Park, Friendly
Sun 12 Aug 13h30 Chelsea, Villa Park, Community Shield
Sa 18 Aug 15h00 Southampton, The Etihad PL
Sa 25 Aug 15h00 Liverpool, Anfield PL
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FIXTURES:
The draw for the 2012/13 Champions League Group Stage will take place in Monaco on Thursday, 30th August. The opening round of games will kick off in the week commencing Monday, 17th September.