Being an elite athlete requires a lot of effort and sacrifice. Ahead of a tournament of the magnitude of Fifa World Cup, athletes are expected to follow stricter fitness regimes and diet pratices in order to be in the best possible shape for the quadrennial global spectacle.
Muslim athletes tend to face an extraordinary situation when an important tournament coincides with the holy month of Ramadan as they are expected to abstain from eating or drinking from dawn to dusk during the holy month.
Several international tournaments including World Cup 2014, Euro 2016 and London Olympics 2012 in the past have coincided with the Ramadan month. The players have had to balance between high-intensity training and faith.
Unlike the last edition where the fasting period coincided with the tournament, it is due to end this year on Thursday evening paving the way to Eid al-Fitr, which also marks the start of the 2018 edition of the World Cup in Russia.
However, several players and teams with Muslim bulk have been training through the month of Ramadan in the lead up to the 32-team tournament. Notably, Islam exempts people who are travelling during the day and the ones who are ill or pregnant from fasting.
Except for four players, including captain Tayseer-Al-Jassem, all other players and most of the support staff had decided to delay their fast until after the tournament, according to Arab News.
Saudi Arabia's base in Russia in St. Petersburg is currently experiencing longer hours of daylight (close to 18 hours).
The quartet decided to not eat food or consume liquids during the daylight on all days but for the matchday (during pre-World Cup friendlies) and the day before it.
However, the said bunch of four players decided to delay the fast after the team's defeat to Germany on Friday, June 8 in order to be at peak fitness for the opening match on Thursday against the hosts.
Eygpt's talismanic forward Mohamed Salah had broken his fast in June for the Champions League final in Kiev but had reportedly resumed his religious duties after the match.
Even as Hector Cuper, the Argentine head coach of Egypt, voiced concerns about the impact of fasting on players' ability, team manager Ehab Laheta said the players were asked to make their own decisions.
Laheta also revealed that the team had roped in a nutritional expert from England to prepare a program for the players during the fasting period.
Tunisian players seemed to have observed the fast during the month of Ramadan, despite not being entirely happy with the decision, according to The Guardian.
However, they made sure they broke the fast right after the end of the daylight hours even if they in the middle of pre-tournament friendlies.
Goalkeeper Mouez Hassen had helped his teammates break after the sunset during their friendly against Turkey at home on June 1. He faked an injury in the 47th minute to make sure the play came to a halt. He was reportedly asked to do so in the previous match against Portugal on the road as well but he had denied, according to Al Arabiya.
Senegal national football team coach Aliou Cisse was outspoken about the impact of Ramadan fasting on his players.
"Everyone knows that high-level football isn't compatible with Ramadan. I am responsible for the health of these players," Cisse, a Muslim himself, had told local media,
Senegal players though had collectively decided to postpone their fasting, according to t The Guardian.
Iran president Hassan Rouhani had told the World Cup-bound national team as early as in May that the month of Ramadan itself is all about training.
"You go to the gym to prepare yourself by training and preparing for an important international competition. The month of Ramadan is the gym for all of us. It is all training…It is about patience and resistance."
The players from the Islamist Republic have been fasting throughout the holy month. They will play their tournament opener against Morocco on Friday at St. Petersburg.
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