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Emirates Man - - FEA­TURE THE EU­ROS -

t is no sur­prise athletes of­ten suf­fer rest­less evenings in the build-up to the start of a ma­jor tour­na­ment. Yet at this month’s Euro­pean Cham­pi­onships in France, a sleep­less night will be all but in­evitable for some, given the com­pe­ti­tion co­in­cides with the fast­ing obli­ga­tions as­so­ci­ated with Ra­madan.

The Is­lamic Holy Month is ex­pected to com­mence on June 6, four days be­fore the start of Euro­pean foot­ball’s four-week con­test to crown the con­ti­nent’s new kings.

Bal­anc­ing pro­fes­sional prepa­ra­tions with reli­gious obli­ga­tions is noth­ing new to Mus­lim foot­ballers, but it requires them to make a de­ci­sion based on faith: fast now or post­pone un­til later? While some play­ers will elect to ob­serve their du­ties through­out the month, in­clud­ing on match days, Is­lam al­lows for ex­cep­tions, be it for health rea­sons or for those who are trav­el­ling.

Should play­ers de­cide to re­spect their obli­ga­tions dur­ing Ra­madan, fac­tors that will re­quire close mon­i­tor­ing include re­hy­dra­tion and avoid­ing nu­tri­tional and en­ergy de ciency, ac­cord­ing to a med­i­cal re­search pa­per published in 2013 by Aspetar, the Qatar Or­thopaedic And Sports Medicine Hos­pi­tal.

The eas­ier op­tion would un­doubt­edly be for foot­ballers to de­fer their reli­gious com­mit­ments un­til their pro­fes­sional com­mit­ments are com­plete. The Qu­ran al­lows for such an ap­proach and at the Lon­don Olympics in 2012, the UAE foot­ball team was granted an ex­emp­tion by the coun­try’s high­est reli­gious body.

A high-in­ten­sity, four-week tour­na­ment such as a World Cup or Euro­pean Cham­pi­onships provides a chal­lenge to play­ers and med­i­cal staff alike. Were Ra­madan to fall dur­ing the reg­u­lar foot­ball sea­son, coaches and med­i­cal teams could mon­i­tor it bet­ter be­cause clubs tend to play only once per week, al­low­ing for fast­ing for four or ve days. At a big tour­na­ment though, not only are the games sched­uled closer to­gether, but the matches might go to ex­tra time and penal­ties.

“If you are at a Premier League team with a cou­ple of Mus­lim play­ers, the coach might say, ‘OK, let’s give th­ese play­ers a rest for th­ese few games and we will use them more later in the sea­son.’ But in a knock-out tour­na­ment you need your best play­ers for every game,” says Nick Worth, a sports phys­io­ther­a­pist who has spent the ma­jor­ity of his career work­ing in the English Premier League.

Pres­sure on Mus­lim play­ers to forego their faith for the bene t of their team has been doc­u­mented in the past. In 2009, In­ter Mi­lan coach Jose Mour­inho sub­sti­tuted Sul­ley Mun­tari af­ter only half an hour saying the Ghana­ian Mus­lim “had some prob­lems re­lated to Ra­madan”.

Un­der­stand­ing and tol­er­ance in Europe has im­proved a lot in re­cent years, says Worth, who worked with Oman goal­keeper Ali Al Habsi while at Bolton

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