The Ramadhan Diaries

Fasting in London and beyond

Archive for the tag “FIFA”

Football and Fasting

The Match We Have All Been Waiting For

The Match We Have All Been Waiting For

The Algerian national team’s coach, Bosnian Vahid Halilhodzic is angry with the constant questions regarding which players within his team will be fasting. I am curious as to why everyone is fixated with that. I am also surprised to hear that he has received criticisms against him personally. I was reading the post by David Ornstein on the BBC online Sport pages.

“Ramadan is here and I read in some Algerian newspapers criticisms about me, about my image, about my honour. They are trying to raise hatred against Vahid, against my family, and this is really disgusting.”

Of course it was one of the things we all anticipated if Algeria, the only Arab/North African country go forward at this years World Cup in Brazil. I was watching the last match with an Algerian friend where they drew with Russia, breaking through into the last-16.  “They will be playing in Ramadan – that’s huge.’ I was thinking about the symbolism of a predominantly Muslim country playing at the World Cup during Ramadan and less the practicalities of it. My friend pointed out that we will be having Iftar watching the match.

Fasting is very much a private matter and it is also one of those acts of worship that no one else has to even know about. If you are fasting you are not displaying an outward action – it’s internal and more personal. A struggle against your own desires, habits and enforcing will power.

It is interesting that everyone is keen to know if the players will be fasting. Is it because it is deemed such an enormous feat to undertake? Particularly if you are playing sport at world level in the heat the Brazilian climate promises? It does make you wonder about human abilities. But Algeria is a relatively conservative country and some if not all of the team are observing Muslims. One thing I noticed about Algerians through friends and networks is that despite other aspects of Islam that may not be adhered to as strictly, even the five times a day prayer – fasting is observed throughout Ramadan in a steadfast manner.

And yet it is still a matter between the individual and Allah (God) as eluded to by the coach in the BBC online piece.”This is a private matter and when you ask this you lack respect and ethics,” said their coach.

Although Ramadan is mandatory for Muslims and one of the five pillars of Islam, those that are sick, and elderly are exempt and those who are pregnant, travelling or going to war are permitted to avoid it until a later time. Athletes sometimes delay their fast according to these exemptions. Not being judgemental is key and sadly Muslims can be an extremely judgemental bunch.

The coach said that it is not the first time he has had Muslim players in his team and that he leaves them free to make up their own minds. He sees it as a private spiritual matter and I have to agree.

‘It has to do with private freedom of expression.’

“Those who continue criticising our team and my actions, I think it’s shameful. But I will continue [as coach], I will continue working with this team. I’m sorry that you continue criticising what I do.
“Stop asking me about Ramadan, otherwise I will get up and leave.”

We know though that the Algerian captain, Madjid Bougherra will be fasting during Ramadan and that does not surprise me. I met him in Glasgow in 2010 and interviewed him for a film I was making about the Algerian football team. He was striking in his humility, even bringing his two little daughters for us to meet.

I was also amazed to read that the Algerian squad have been accompanied by one of Fifa’s leading experts on fasting footballers! I never knew there was such a thing! But obviously then footballers fast whilst playing matches. And they survive. It is all to do with the preparation and being careful. Something I think expensive footballers and their managers will be most aware of.

1,2,3 Viva L’Algerie and Ramadan Kareem to the team.

 

Saudi Female Athletes At London 2012 Olympics

Saudi Female Athletes At The Olympics

I know this is not new information but I want to mark it and mention it on the blog. I am really pleased to see this – its progress. I am sad however that the judoka will not be permitted to wear a headscarf if she competes. That’s an awful choice to have to make for a woman who covers. It’s going to be important to support the women arriving in London to the Games but I think the IOC thoughts on this ruling could have been wiser if they really did want to open the door for full female participation from conservative Arab States. By this one statement and ruling, there are already probably a number of young women and girls in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere who will be prevented from participating in sport in the future-especially at higher levels, where the argument of how it will interfere with their faith will be used.

It goes against every bit of campaigning that was done to get these women here in the first place. I cannot see how wearing a headscarf is going to be unsafe, as decided by the IOC committee. FIFA said that about football and now with persistence and dedication demonstrated by passionate Muslim female football players, and by example, this notion has been kicked into touch. Pun intended.

Will the same happen for all other sports – where we can get rid of this rather daft notion that covering the hair and being modestly dressed is dangerous? I think the only time I would really think wearing a headscarf would be dangerous would be in  an event like competitive flame throwing or something. But I can hardly ever see that being an Olympic sport. Everything else really should be fine. The only actual harm being done is through this decision is to the athlete in terms of the pressure it will put on her to choose, and subsequently face potential criticism or worse on return home and to other future female athletes from conservative Muslim states.

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