In Ramadan, Muslim Athletes Face Challenges to Compete

For many Muslim athletes, the holy month of Ramadan is a special time to get closer to Allah while maintaining a challenging training routine while fasting.

“It’s a time for me to connect with my religion,” said Yahya Bashir, a first-year student at Gustavus Adolphus, The Free Press reported.

“I learn more about my religion. It’s about sacrifice and relating to people who don’t have enough food.”

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From the first day of Ramadan, Bashir follows a special routine for his meals, studies, and training.

He wakes up at 4 am to eat suhoor and get some sleep. Then he attends classes until 2:30 pm followed by soccer training from 4 to 6:30 pm. He returns home and waits till sunset to break his fast and perform night prayers.

Bashir, who attended high school at Columbia Heights, is the only player on the Gustavus soccer team who is fasting. His roommates have tried to abstain from food and water.

“They’re being supportive and trying to experience Ramadan,” Bashir said.

The young soccer player is not the only athlete who keeps fit while fasting.

Educating Others

Omar Abdi, a Mankato East sophomore, also recognizes the value of sacrifice and importance of bringing awareness to those who are less fortunate during Ramadan.

“I didn’t know why I was starving myself,” the Mankato East sophomore said. “But it’s really given me an appreciation for doing good deeds. (Ramadan) helps me be closer to my religion. It makes me a better person and do more good things.

“Some people don’t have anything to eat, and this helps me to know how they feel. It makes me appreciate things more.”

Abdi also has a routine to keep training sessions while fasting Ramadan.

“I try to stay away from people who are eating,” said Abdi, who competes as a sprinter and jumper with the boys track team at East.

“It was hard at first, but I’ve adjusted. It’s hard when you’re trying to do two sports, especially in the heat like today.”

Farrque Hussein, a junior at Gustavus Adolphus, has a bigger challenge as he tries to qualify for the Olympic Trials in swimming.

“Every year, I feel like ‘Wow, it’s already here again,’” he said. “It’s exciting. It’s a whole month of celebration and tranquility. It’s a great challenge, especially for your mind.”

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Fasting Athletes

Ramadan is the 9th month of the Hijri Islamic calendar. It commemorates the first revelation of the Qur’an to Prophet Muhammad.

From dawn until sunset, Muslims refrain from food, drinking liquids, smoking, and engaging in sexual relations).

Dismissing fears and worries associated with Ramadan with regard to sportsmen, a FIFA Medical Assessment and Research Centre (F-MARC) study established that young male national football players who observe Ramadan fasting in a controlled environment show no compromise in their physical and physiological performance or reduction in their subjective well-being.

The study is replicated to investigate a wider range of elite level players.

Another study published in May 2012 in the journal of sports science showed that, generally, Ramadan fasting has minor effects on health and physical fitness.