Monday, June 30, 2014 1:40 pm
The Holy islamic month of Ramadan began on June 28, same day the knockout stages of the FIFA World Cup kicked off in Brazil and today will see a host of Muslim players be involved in matches with their respective nations.
This brings up the dilemma of the players choosing to observe the obligation of abstaining from food and liquids during daytime as required by Islam and risk performing poorly due to hunger and dehydration during the match or choosing not to abstain and go against their belief.
In previous instances where a sporting event occured during Ramadan, some muslim athletes have chosen to abstain while competing just as others have chosen not to abstain for the sake of competing.
Some even allude athletes can maintain their level of performance from pre-Ramadan despite observing abstinence, with Cote D’Ivoire defender Kolo Toure once stating ”the first five days are difficult. After that, the body just starts to adapt.”
Vice-President of the Federation of Muslim Associations in Brazil, Ali Zogbhi however holds a contrary opinion. “Science has already proved that if you do physical exercise without eating you experience serious problems. Therefore, it is more sensible to allow players to not fast during this period.”
But other than the choice of abstinence by the footballers here, there is the concern that weather conditions could be too straining on the muslim players especially as water breaks were observed during the second round match between Netherlands and Mexico due to soaring temperatures.
Nigeria take on France in the afternoon kick-off in Brasilia, with the weather likely to be similar to the near-40 degrees experienced during the Dutch match on Sunday and at least two muslim players would be in the starting line-ups of both nations today while more could be involved as the match goes on.
Attacking midfielder Ahmed Musa is set to start for Nigeria as would Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema for France, while defender Mamadou Sakho is an injury doubt for France.
French duo Moussa Sissoko and Bacary Sagna as well as Nigerian midfielder Ramon Azeez would likely start on the bench, though Sagna has already stated he would not abstain in daytime.
In order to quell the risk of an underperformance by muslim players in such instance as in the World Cup matches, some clerics usually advise the players to observe abstinence at a later convenient time or donate to charity.
Then again, other muslim clerics insist there is no provision for footballers to skip abstinence for the sake of participating in a sporting activity because fasting is mandatory during Ramadan.
Due to the humidity of the weather Brazil coupled with the prospect of playing extra-time if the match finishes level after 90 minutes however, it would be no surprise if the other muslim players at the World Cup such as the Algerian squad, Germany’s Mesut Özil and Sami Khedira, Xherdan Shaqiri of Switzerland and Belgian trio Marouane Fellaini, Moussa Dembele and Adnan Januzaj take Sagna’s cue and not observe abstinence in daytime.