Ramadhan, the holy month in Islam, is over, and Muslims all over the world will be celebrating Hari Raya Aidilfitri.
During this period, Muslims were presented with the daunting challenge of fasting from dawn till dusk, refraining from eating and drinking. For professional athletes, the lack of food and water can take a toll on their physical strength and compromise their optimum sports performance.
Understandably, this religious practice has had its share of controversies, with managers and coaches in top football leagues around the world questioning players’ decision to fast and play football at a very competitive level.
In Singapore, where fasting means rising as early as 5am for a meal, and then refraining from eating and drinking for the entire day until 7pm, Ramadan can be very challenging. The long daylight hours, combined with the heat, certainly does not help. So how do local footballers cope?
With a total of 5 matches fixed during this month, young footballers from Courts Young Lions shared with Goal.com how they had balanced faith and football.
Some players overseas may compromise fasting especially on game days, but many Muslim players in the S.league have become pretty accustomed to this grueling routine.
Hafiz Sujad, captain of the Young Lions, believes that while fasting and playing professionally can be difficult, it eventually becomes something that he has adapted well to and he ensures that it doesn’t affect his performance on the pitch.
“You do feel slightly more tired but it’s just a matter of getting used to it,” said Hafiz
“Training sessions for the Young Lions continued as per normal. The only difference was that we’re given a short break during breakfast to have some light food and drinks such as Milo or H2O to give us energy.
“Our coaches are also sensitive to Ramadan and have been supportive.”
With many crucial matches taking place during the month such as the Starhub League Cup Plate Championship finals, how did these footballers ensure that they had enough energy to last a game?
It starts with having a good pre-dawn meal. Eating right and drinking loads of water to stay hydrated provided players with the much-needed energy to last the day.
Moreover, during fasting month, matches were also delayed until 8.30pm to accommodate Muslim players.
According to goalkeeper Syazwan Buhari: “It gave us enough time to break fast and gain energy before a game.”
“And besides, as a keeper I don’t need to run much,” joked the 20-year-old.
For Canadian-born winger Sherif El Masri, fasting in Singapore was not as bad as fasting during summer back in Canada. But he does agree that the heat was a killer.
Like his other teammates, he just needed something light before a match.
“Personally, I don’t usually eat much before a match," said El Masri.
"The same goes for fasting month. I would have something light such as Bananas or chocolates to get hyper, and of course drink lots of water.”
Goal.com Singapore would like to wish all our Muslim readers a Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri!