Football and Fasting

Published by Newman University on

Man kicking football
Dr Ibrahim Akubat, Senior Lecturer in Sport and Health at Newman University, has recently written a blog post that reflects on the challenges faced by fasting athletes, particularly professional footballers, during the holy month of Ramadan.

“The Muslim holy month of Ramadan is observed by over 1.5bn Muslims worldwide. During this month Muslims’ fast and remain without water and food from dawn till dusk. Therefore, Muslim athletes have to make considerable adjustments to their routines which potentially impacts performance. As the Islamic calendar follows the lunar cycle it moves forward 10 days each year with respect to the Gregorian calendar. Currently this now falls fully within the typical football season in the UK. Muslims make up 4.4% of the UK population and it would appear a similar number of footballers are represented in professional football teams especially at the highest level in the English Premier League (EPL) where most teams have at least one Muslim player. Given the nutritional and performance challenges faced by a fasting athlete, the scenario of a fasting footballer provides unique challenges which requires specific socio-cultural understanding and dedicated nutritional and performance support to allow such footballers to continue to perform. In 2021, a match between Crystal Palace FC and Leicester City FC made headlines as play stopped to allow fasting players from both sides to end their fasting day by taking on fluids/nutrition. Watch the video here.

“This was considered the first time such an instance has occurred demonstrating greater awareness but also the specific requirement for maintaining optimal health and performance.  All the top teams in Europe rely on Muslim footballers. You have Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona), Hakim Ziyech/Ngolo Kante (Chelsea), Paul Pogba (Man Utd), Riyad Mahrez (Man City) and the list goes on. In a recent champions league game between Paris Saint Germain and Real Madrid, Karim Benzema achieved an extraordinary feat by scoring a hat-rick in the last 30 minutes of the game to completely overturn the tie and leave PSG shell-shocked. He had been fasting all day and only ended his fast some minutes before kick off.

“In a recent interview with Esquire, Benzema revealed that taking part in Ramadan had no impact on his game.

“He said: ‘No impact, Ramadan is part of my life and my religion makes Ramadan an obligation… For me, it’s very important and I feel good when I’m fasting.’

“When asked what he’s grateful for in life, he replied: ‘I am grateful for being in good health.’

“Benzema has now scored back-to-back Champions League hat-tricks by following up with another against Chelsea in the 1st leg at Stamford bridge. All while fasting.

“Recently I teamed up with the Premier League and the Professional Footballers Association to deliver a webinar on Fasting & Football. It was supported by staff at current premier league clubs and international researchers. If you would like to know how/if football impacts performance and what strategies are used to help, you can watch it by visiting this website.”
– Dr Ibrahim Akubat, Senior Lecturer in Sport and Health at Newman University –
Categories: EidSport

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