The World Cup and Ramadan – the ninth month of the Muslim year, during which strict fasting is observed from sunrise to sunset – last clashed in 1986. This year they did so again in spectacular fashion, with both the fasting month and the tournament’s Round of 16 in late June.
Prior to Brazil 2014, Muslims in a range of sports fasted during their regular club competitions, with seemingly little or no impact. In Australia, Sonny Bill Williams joins Hazem El Masri as rugby league stars who have fasted during an NRL season, and Bachar Houli in Aussie Rules.
This year, there are several Muslims in teams still in the knockout stages of the World Cup including at least five players from France, seven from Switzerland’s diverse squad, two from Nigeria, three from Belgium, two or three from Germany and most of the Algerian team.
There are several factors that suggest the clash of the World Cup and Ramadan this year won’t present a problem. For a start, there’s a general agreement among Muslim scholars that anyone who is travelling is included in the list of Muslims who are exempt from fasting, along with the sick, young children, and the elderly.
Several players have announced they will still be fasting, and won’t be seeking to make up the missed fasting days after Ramadan, as those claiming the travel exemption must do.
Algerian captain Madjid Bougherra who has played for a number of European clubs and fasted while doing so. Manchester City right back Bacary Sagna, who plays for the French national team, says he will continue to fast, citing the experiences of players who used to do so while playing in European leagues.
There is a growing body of research on coping strategies that Muslim athletes can undertake if they wish to continue fasting while playing, as FIFA found out.
Ramadan changes not just the amount of food and drink consumed by a fasting Muslim (none at all during daylight hours) but also his or her sleeping patterns (as a fasting person will get up pre-dawn for an early breakfast).
Muslims in general, not just those who play professional sport, are advised to consume a pre-dawn meal consisting of foods that release energy slowly throughout the day, as a listicle widely shared on social media in the days before Ramadan suggests.
Imagine the impact that a change in sleeping patterns and the timing of food and drink consumption might have on a professional athlete’s training regimen. Some studies suggest an increase in fatigue and a decline in speed and agility among Muslim athletes.
Finally, the Muslim world doesn’t have a central authority acknowledged by everyone who follows the faith.
This makes the fasting/sport equation even more complex because some religious figures looked up to by the players say that because of the nature of their jobs, they don’t have to fast even if they aren’t travelling and can make it up later or otherwise compensate for the fast.
Fasting exemptions for sports people are, of course, hotly debated and will probably continue to be discussed at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, scheduled for June 8 to July 8 in a year when Ramadan is expected to last until the first week of the tournament.
In a nutshell, it shouldn’t be an issue if Ramadan and the World Cup clash this year, as the players will be covered by the travelling exemption.
Those who don’t want to claim this exemption and still fast will be able to draw on the emerging research into how the body is able to adapt to fasting while maintaining physical performance.
This article first appeared in The Conversation.
The Monash Media Lab: a great place to learn
Monash Media, Film and Journalism’s Head of School Associate Professor Mia Lindgren and TV presenter and academic, Waleed Aly, talk about what makes the Monash Media Lab so important for students.
Monash journalism researchers win JERAA grants
Monash University’s journalism researchers have been awarded all research grants and scholarly prizes offered by the Journalism Education and Research Association Australia (JERAA).
Ruddock launches Youth and Media book in Serbia
Monash University’s senior lecturer in communications & media Studies, Dr Andy Ruddock, recently launched the Serbian version of his book, Youth and Media.
Waleed Aly launches the Monash Media Lab
Monash academic and media presenter Waleed Aly officially launched the Monash Media Lab on Thursday, April 7, before the Monash community and special guests.
Monash University launches innovative media lab
A state-of-the-art media lab will be officially launched at Monash University’s Caulfield campus on April 7. Waleed Aly, well-known journalist and Monash University academic, will launch the lab, which is part of the Faculty of Arts’ School of Media, Film and Journalism.
Monash students recognised in trust awards
Three Monash journalism students have been named successful recipients of the 2016 Herb Thomas Memorial Trust Award.
Annika wins two Quills for Choppergate scandal
Monash journalism alumna Annika Smethurst has won two 2015 Victorian Quill Awards for her outstanding work on the “Choppergate” scandal.
Monash student & graduates named Quill finalists
Monash student Jack Paynter is among an impressive list of journalists who are finalists in the 2015 Victorian Quill Awards, including Ashley Argoon (pictured left), Annika Smethurst, Therese Allaoui, Brendan Casey and Danny Tran.
Shona has a blast promoting the dairy industry
Master of Journalism graduate Shona McPherson has a fantastic job as the media officer of the Australian Dairy Farmers. Shona is passionate about promoting and protecting the dairy farmers’ industry.
James dreams of a life in the fast lane
Journalism graduate James Wong is keen to live a life in the fast lane. James’s dream job is working on a show like Top Gear because of his great love of cars.
Monash Media Lab opens for semester one
A new multi-million dollar media centre is now available to Monash University’s School of Media, Film and Journalism students for semester 1, 2016.
Fenella strikes a chord in entertainment industry
Monash journalism alumna Fenella Wagener has maintained her promising singing career while working as a producer for Channel Nine’s Today Show.