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Wondering what all the Ramadan talk is about? Look no further...

The Muslim month of Ramadan is upon us, and the ramifications for football are considerable. With several players undergoing a period of fasting, and fans around the world doing the same, the sport will not be quite the same for the month in question.

As the world's game, and with Muslim players operating all over the planet, Ramadan is being practised in many places to which it is quite alien. This can result in confusion for those who don't understand it.

So, International spoke to Mohammed Awaad of Arabic, who explains to our global audience exactly what Ramadan is all about and why it matters to the sport of football...

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Unlike most other calendars it is lunar, not solar, and as such is based off the moon, making it shorter than a solar year. In terms of the regular global calendar, then, this year's month of Ramadan begins on 22nd August and ends on the 19th of September.

Fasting during Ramadan month, also known as Sawm, is considered one of the Five Pillars of Islam - the key practices of faith that make one a Muslim. The other pillars are faith in Allah and Mohammed as his messenger; praying; the charitable act of Zakah; and the Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca.

The fasting itself involves abstaining from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and dusk. As this can be physically demanding for certain people, there are some groups who are excused:
  • The very old, or very young (under 12), or those who have certain illnesses
  • People travelling long distances or for long times
  • Pregnant women or breast-feeding women
  • Menstruating women
Some interpretations of Islam have it that taking days off from the fast for travel, for example, necessitates 'catching up' later. But the core of Sawm is agreed by the two main Islamic sects, Shia and Sunni.

These ancient rules of Sawm can create problems in football. Professional players are expected to operate at the peak of physical condition, which some may say cannot be achieved during fasting.

Nonetheless, many Islamic scholars would not call this a valid excuse for breaking the fast. Training and exercises could be completed after dusk, for example, and it is the opinion of many in the medical community that the increased mental focus of a month of sacrifice can compensate - or even outweigh - any dietary negatives.

Shikh Mohammed al Taweel, a prominent Imam from Morocco, is unequivocal in his view: football is playing, and one cannot break a fast simply to play.

He is not alone in that opinion, and that is why we see players and fans fasting the world over right now.

This is the introductory article to's Ramadan Reflections series. We will also bring you views from the medical profession, from sporting figures, and from supporters, on the practice of fasting, as well as a special look at other examples in which religion and football intersect.

For a look at a star player's take on Ramadan fasting, check out our exclusive interview with Fredi Kanoute.