Saturday,18 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1158, (25 - 31 July 2013)
Saturday,18 August, 2018
Issue 1158, (25 - 31 July 2013)

Ahram Weekly

Fasting in football

The decision to play the Egyptian derby in the African Champions League during Ramadan once more raises the question of how fasting affects performance on the field. Ahmed Hamdi reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

It was not the first time for Egyptian players to play during the day in Ramadan. Usually, matches during Ramadan in Egypt are held three hours after Iftar time. But due to security concerns, the Egyptian derby between Zamalek and Ahli was played at a different time and venue. The match was moved to El-Gouna Stadium in Hurghada. The game was supposed to take place in Cairo, being the home city of both teams. However, due to the current situation on the ground after the 30 June demonstrations, the Ministry of Interior demanded that the match be moved. The ministry also refused to secure the match in Alexandria, only accepting to do so far away from all the action, in the eastern city of Hurghada.
Solving one problem, another problem surfaced. El-Gouna Stadium does not have floodlights. To solve that problem, the ministry recommended that the match be played before night meaning before Iftar at sunset and during fasting time.
The decision to fast or not to for the players has always been a dilemma. Some players insist on fasting despite the physical effort they make on the pitch while others do not in the quest of keeping their performance at the highest level. They say they can fast another day.
Does fasting affect the performance of the players on the pitch? Public health consultant Noha Said told Al-Ahram Weekly that it usually does not. “It differs from one person to another,” Said said. “But playing while fasting could cause hypoglycemia (a decrease in the level of blood sugar) and it could also cause a decrease in blood pressure,” she explained. According to Said, these symptoms could show up especially during long fasting periods and the peak of day time when the temperature is very high.  
Despite so, Said told the Weekly that fasting, on the other hand, raises the morale of the players and that could produce extra energy. The problems that fasting could cause for players on the pitch also could be solved before the game as Said says. “They must have balanced meals during Iftar time the night before the match,” she clarified. “They also have to drink lots of water and have enough sugar.”
As it differs from one person to another medically, does religion have another opinion? To clarify the issue, the general directorate of Al-Azhar Magazine answered the question in detail. It stated: “If the player has a job contract with his club then it makes him an employee dedicated to his workplace.” It continued, “If that job is his source of livelihood and has to play a match during the daytime in Ramadan and he thinks that most likely fasting will affect his performance then he has the license to not fast.”
That license though does not apply to training according to the general directorate of Al-Azhar Magazine. “This is for the matches, that the player has no choice but to play,” it stated. “Training, on the other hand, as long as their timing can be controlled, should be done at night so they won’t clash with the player’s ability to fast,” the answer said. The magazine also stated that if the officials have the chance to plan them at night but did not do so, they certainly will be committing a sin.
The majority of players in Egypt, despite the license given to them, prefer to fast during matches. One of these players is Ahli star player Mohamed Abu-Treika who is known to be religiously committed. In Europe also, there are several Muslim players who always insist on fasting during matches. Frédéric Kanouté who now plays in China is a Muslim who had been the star man for Sevilla in Spain for many years. The Mali striker is also known to be a devout follower and had always insisted on fasting during Ramadan even during matches. He was once asked about the issue: “He who doesn’t understand the teachings of Islam does not understand that fasting gives strength and not weakness.”

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