Muslim football fans in the UAE will likely be balancing iftar gatherings and World Cup games for the next two weeks; but for Muslim footballers in Brazil, the Holy Month poses a different dilemma.
Muslims around the world follow a lunar calendar, which means that each year Hijri months start earlier and earlier on the Gregorian calendar. This year, most of the World Cup rounds will fall in Ramadan, with the first of the knock-out stages beginning on 29 June, the first day of the Holy Month in many countries. A number of the teams appearing in the upcoming rounds, including the French, Swiss and German teams, have Muslim players.
The New York Times said that Brazil is also playing host to large groups of Muslim fans, as well as football commentators. Additionally, the hot and humid weather in Brazil is likely to make dehydration a problem for players.
There are some exemptions from fasting in Islam, but religious opinions are often mixed about them – and while some players may decide to make up the fast days later in the year, others are still likely to fast throughout the tournament.
According to the New York Times, a study conducted during the 2012 London Summer Olympics – the most recent event to coincide with Ramadan – examined the effects that fasting had on an athlete’s performance. The study found that, with sports like football, it is more difficult to isolate the factors that impact a player’s performance.
The chairman of FIFA’s medical committee, Dr. Michel D’Hooghe, was reported in the New York Times to have said that FIFA had conducted a study ahead of the World Cup, and has shown positive results. He added that “If you do it intelligently, then you can adapt perfectly. Before the sun comes up, they have enough hydration to go on through the whole day.”