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Balancing faith and football

Playing football while fasting and without drinking water may seem impossible to many. But there are professional footballers answering the call of duty even as they keep the faith. Anupma Tripathi reports.

india Updated: Aug 27, 2009 00:42 IST
Anupma Tripathi

Playing football while fasting and without drinking water may seem impossible to many. But there are professional footballers answering the call of duty even as they keep the faith.

In the ONGC 14th Nehru Cup, teams have players fasting for Ramzan while representing their countries. Syria and Lebanon have been hardest hit by this.

For Syria, the Nehru Cup is the first-ever tournament they are playing in the month of Ramzan, coach Fajer Ibrahim said. “Back home, matches take place at night during Ramzan which gives our players enough time to gain strength. It’s little difficult here because the matches start at 6.30 pm and we can eat only around 7 pm.”

Ibrahim though disputes the notion that it could affect performance. “A sport is not about science, it’s about faith in oneself. They (his players) would never trade their fast for anything. Though they do miss their homes at this point in time,” he said.

When Lebanon lost 3-4 to Sri Lanka on Saturday, coach Emile Rustom cited fasting the reason for the loss. “ It was the first day of Ramzan and the players were low. The weather is hot and so the players tend to get dehydrated. Their sleeping pattern changes. Everything makes it difficult to play.”

Explains Lebanon midfielder Ali El Atat. “It’s for the first time I am playing in the evening while fasting. We don’t eat or drink from 3.30 am till 7 in the evening. At half-time, we eat half a banana and some liquid.”

Muslim players from Sri Lanka and Kyrgyzstan here for the tournament though aren’t fasting. “They chose not to observe the fast. It’s their decision,” said Sri Lanka coach Sampath Pereira.

For Mohmmad Issadeen, who scored his first international hattrick here, country comes first, “Abstaining from food and water for a particular span of time. I will though fast for the next two months,” the striker said.

In the India national team, Mehrajuddin Wadoo, Md Anwar and Syed Rahim Nabi too aren’t fasting. “I used to earlier but once I fell sick during playing a match. Ever since, I’ve stopped fasting while I am playing,” Wadoo said.