The holy month of Ramadan is nearly upon us with Muslims around the world expected to observe the month of fasting. In football, match officials across the leagues have been asked to allow players to break their fast during evening matches over the Islamic month.
Officials have been issued with guidance from the refereeing bodies to allow for a natural pause in play to enable players to break their fast by taking on liquids or energy gels or supplements. They have also been encouraged ahead of the kick-off to understand which players will need to break their fast and when a possible time for this should be. Last year this was done out of courtesy and respect but it is now official guidance.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is an important period of self-reflection for Muslims. While the world of football learns to adjust and Muslims around the world prepare for a month of abstaining from food and drink in sunlight hours, here are some of the most high profile footballers and other athletes in the UK who will observe the rules.
Mo Salah - football
Liverpool’s all-time leading Premier League goalscorer, Mo Salah, is one of the most prolific athletes in the UK and will be observing the month of fasting. He is very private about his habits during Ramadan but he is well-known for being a devout Muslim.
In 2020, it was reported that the star trained at 3am in order to continue fasting and he was one of many, not just in the Egyptian squad but among other countries, during the 2018 World Cup in Russia to fast. It was however noted that ahead of Liverpool’s 2019 Champions League final, the Egyptian would not be fasting.
Amir Khan - Boxer
Olympic medallist Amir Khan will observe the month and has previously spoken on how fasting will not have any adverse effects on his performance. In 2015, Khan spoke to the BBC saying “The training has changed big time. After fasting all day I eat late in the evening, go to the mosque for my prayers and then hit the gym at midnight to train for about an hour.
“It’s extremely tough but the motivation for me is that my opponents are sleeping whilst Amir Khan is training. It’s not really something a sportsman should be doing but that’s the sacrifices you have to make when you’re a Muslim.”
Moeen Ali - cricket
Along with Adil Rashid, Ali is one of the most high profile Muslim cricketers in England. The white-ball vice-captain has long been observing Ramadan and believes that despite abstaining from food and water, the holy month does not affect him on the pitch.
When asked by BBC reporter Ahmed Maher in 2015 how he copes, Ali said: “a lot of it is in the mind. It is tough but it’s very rewarding. I feel a lot sharper in my senses and a lot more relaxed.” In 2015, Ali scored a quickfire 77 and took two wickets - Australia’s Steve Smith and Michael Clarke - on day two of a Test match while observing Ramadan.
Sir Mo Farah - long-distance runner
Mo Farah is the most successful male track distance runner ever and most successful British track athlete in modern Olympic Games history. The 39-year-old fasts during the month of Ramadan but has said in the past that often if Ramadan falls during his season, he will observe a month of fasting after his competitive season has concluded.
Farah believes Islam is an important part of his preparation. Speaking in an interview in 2013, Farah said: “I normally pray before a race, I read dua (Islamic prayers), think about how hard I’ve worked and just go for it. The Quran says that you must work hard in whatever you do, so I work hard in training and that’s got a lot to do with being successful. It doesn’t just come overnight, you’ve got to train for it and believe in yourself; that’s the most important thing.”
N’Golo Kante - football
French footballer N’Golo Kante has been part of the Chelsea football side since 2016 and is a practising Muslim. Although Kante is currently injured and only just beginning to return to training, he is set to observe Ramadan and last year his then boss Thomas Tuchel noted that the player’s drop in form could have been due to fasting.
Following Chelsea’s 3-1 defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League, Tuchel told the press: “(Kante) is a unique player, who gives us something nobody else can. He’s struggling with consistency due to injuries, illness and this is also the reason for our bit of inconsistency. We have missed him for so many matches, now he’s fasting due to his religion and beliefs so maybe another reason. Not for the first time but if for many days you don’t drink or eat it can have an effect.”
Which other UK-based athletes will fast?
Here are some other big names in the world of sport in the UK that will observe the Islamic holy month...
- Saqib Mahmood - Cricket
- Hakim Ziyech - Chelsea footballer
- Wesley Fofana - Chelsea footballer
- Moe Sbihi - Team GB rower
- Riyah Mahrez - Manchester City footballer
- Adil Rashid - Cricket
- Hamza Choudhoury - Leicester City Footballer