Home Uncategorized Intriguing: Tale of how Muslims footballers cope while fasting

Intriguing: Tale of how Muslims footballers cope while fasting

by adminV
Palestine fans enjoying the game. PHOTO: Getty Images
This week’s international fixtures took place during the
month of Ramadan, when Muslims worldwide observe a month of fasting.
Managers of teams comprised mainly of Muslim players have
had to deal with unique circumstances, with the majority of their squads
fasting from dawn until dusk.

Ramadan coincided with the 2012 London Olympics, the 2014
Fifa World Cup, and last year’s European Championship in France. With the long
summer days in Europe, the quality of player performance can be an issue.
During London 2012, the Emirati football team received
special dispensation from the country’s highest religious authority not to fast
on match days. Germany’s Mesut Ozil also elected not to fast during his
nation’s World Cup campaign in Brazil.
Others insisted on fasting. Many members of Algeria’s
national football team fasted during their last-16 match against Germany,
despite receiving special dispensation from religious authorities, although
goalkeeper Rais M’bolhi subsequently broke his fast with some dates and water
at half-time, BBC reported.
This year, Ramadan stretches from 26 May to 24 June and many
national teams across Asia and Africa have delayed kick-offs until well into
the night.
The Asian Cup qualifier between Palestine and Oman on the
outskirts of Jerusalem earlier this week was one fixture that posed
extraordinary challenges.
The Palestine Football Association had originally scheduled
Tuesday’s match to start at 9.45pm local time, then moved it back to 10.45pm,
and again to 11pm.
Scheduled to give the team and its fans the opportunity to
break fast before heading to the stadium, it inadvertently created a headache for
fans outside of the Jerusalem/Ramallah area.
The Palestine FA tried to coax fans into attending by
granting free entry, but with people from the far northern and southern reaches
of the West Bank, as well as Palestinian majority cities in Israel, needing
more than two hours to commute to the match, there was always a worry not
enough would be present.
From a preparation standpoint, both Oman and Palestine moved
workouts and training to night-time hours, while also adjusting diet and
conditioning habits accordingly.
Bader Aqel, one of the Palestine physicians, outlined the
adjustments made to the national team’s routine during Ramadan.
“We stress to the players that they drink at least
three litres of water after sunset to fight against the effects of dehydration.”
Muslims praying. PHOTO: Getty Images
Outside of Ramadan the players would be offered a
buffet-style spread at their team hotel – but this week Aqel and the rest of
the medical team carefully monitored the players’ intake, giving them set
plates to prevent overeating.
The players were served equal parts carbohydrates – such as
white rice – lean protein and mixed greens or salad. The menu was designed to
give players easily digestible food and energy for the match.
Often the coaching staff would send the players to the gym
one hour before Iftar – the meal that commences immediately after breaking the
fast – to jolt metabolisms after a day of relative inactivity.
“The most important thing is for players not to remain
too sedentary during the day,” added Aqel. “We want to avoid having
the players sleeping too much [which is a common occurrence during
Palestine’s training sessions took place at 11pm, after
which the players returned to their hotel for ice baths and physio work before
sitting down for a pre-dawn meal at about 2:45am.
Pim Verbeek – the Dutchman in charge of Oman – has
previously faced similar challenges with Morocco’s Under-23 team and has
adapted his training sessions to suit his players.
“Of course it’s different. You train once a day, you
would ideally like to train twice a day,” he told BBC Sport. “Our
evening sessions have been good and we’re saving energy for the game.”
Reading goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi is Oman’s captain. He thinks
the late-night kick-off is ideal for the players – giving them enough time to
replenish and rest their bodies after a 17-hour fast that starts at 3:50am and
continues until 7:45pm local time.
“The two-week period in camp has helped us get used to
this. We have trained at the same time the match is due to take place, so this
should help us overcome any challenges presented by Ramadan,” he said.

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