Professional Athletes practice devotion to Ramadan

Midfielder Paul Pogba celebrating a goal with his Manchester United teammates during the team’s match against Zorya Lugansk on Dec. 8 2016. Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons

By Nicholas Poblete/Staff Writer


In 2018, the Muslim community will fast from May 16 to June 14 for the Holy month of Ramadan, including professional athletes.

Ramadan takes place during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. During this month the two major Muslim holidays; the Sunni and Shia fast. The Sunni fast from dawn to sunset, and the Shia fast from dawn to dusk. The main objective in fasting is the guarding of one’s self from evil, according to the Quran.

Pregnant women, the elderly and children are not required to fast during Ramadan. A person traveling or someone who is sick are other exceptions. Those who are healthy must fast.

Professional athletes outside of Muslim countries fall under “person traveling,” but they are also deemed “healthy.” Therefore, athletes decide whether or not they decide to fast, but it comes down to their devotion.

“Some people would say, if you fast and you play, then God is on your side,” Iqbal S. Akhtar, an assistant professor of religious studies said. “I think the main objective[fasting] would be the Arabic word, ‘taqwa,’ which means piety. Part of what fasting is supposed to do is bring you closer to God, make you more aware of your life, your mortality, and to make you a better person.”

During last summer’s European Championship in France, there were many big players who were of the Muslim faith. Paul Pogba, Sami Khedira and Mesut Özil were some of the Muslim players who saw the Holy month and the prestigious European tournament coincide.

German midfielder Mesut Özil decided to delay his fast.

Just as there have been players who have decided to break or delay their fast, many have continued to uphold their devotion, alongside their profession.

In an interview with BBC, Nathan Ellington, a former Premier League soccer player, spoke about the difficulties Muslim players face during Ramadan.

“I had a manager tell me that I wasn’t playing because I was fasting at the time,” Ellington said. “He told me that that would affect my fitness, ability and energy levels.”

“When I played in Greece, one of the players actually joked that I should fast all the time, because I was playing that well,” the former soccer player told the BBC.

The ability to perform on the field came down to an individual’s mindset, Ellington said. For the England native it was crucial to eat plenty of slow release foods, porridge, bananas and fluids, during the time of the day that was acceptable.

Yessenia Allison, a senior majoring in dietetics and nutrition, and president of the Student Dietetic Association, believes that an athlete can’t perform to his or her best ability while they fast.

“For athletes, it is very important to have their pre-workout meal, it has to be composed of carbohydrates that provide them with long lasting energy,” Allison said. “From 12 – 18 hours of not eating anything, your body is going to start breaking down the amino acids for energy, most likely from your muscles.”

Next year, Ramadan will coincide with the ending of all major soccer leagues, but most importantly it will overlap with the 2018 World Cup, which will have many Muslim players in action.

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