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Ramadan dilemma for Muslim footballers: To fast or not to fast?

Ajax’s Dutch defender Noussair Mazraoui (L), Ajax’s Moroccan midfielder Zakaria Labyad (C) and Ajax’s Moroccan midfielder Hakim Ziyech (R) take part in a training session at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London on April 29, 2019, on the eve of the UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg football match against Tottenham Hotspur. (Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP)

London: Ajax are in a fix. They are waiting to find out if three of their Muslim players, Noussair Mazraoui, Hakim Ziyech and Zakaria Labyad, will choose to adhere to Ramadan fasting on match days.

Champions League matches have reached a crucial stage in the play off.

Ajax are not the only team that is apprehensive about the role of their players. There are other teams too with Muslim players.

Ramadan 2019 began on Sunday, May 5 and continues for a month. During this period, most Muslims don’t drink or eat from dawn until dusk. Professional Muslim athletes are generally expected to comply with the rule as well.

According to a news report in De Telegraaf newspaper, a spokesperson for Ajax said the players will have freedom to choose if they will fast on Wednesday but that they would have to clear it with the coaching and medical staff if they opt do so.

So far the only player who has spoken publically about the matter is Mazraoui, who confirmed that he intends to follow the precepts of Islam and not eat or drink in the build-up to the game on Wednesday.
Mazraoui says he will fast day of Ajax-Spurs game.

“I am used to doing it. Can a high-level athlete stop eating if he has to make a big effort?” There are different opinions, but this is my choice, I feel quite energetic during Ramadan,” Mazraoui said in an interview with the Het Parool newspaper.

If the fast is strictly followed, the Moroccan defender will not consume any food or liquid from 6am to 9.15pm – 15 minutes after kick off at the Amsterdam Arena on Wednesday, where Ajax, who have a 1-0 advantage from the first leg, are hoping to reach their first Champions League final in 22 years.

“The game is at 9:00 pm (CET), at 9:15 pm I would have the chance to drink something, if I play, I can go quickly to the band to take a sip,” he added.

Ajax physiotherapist, Raymond Verheijen, has recommended Mazraoui, Ziyech and Labyad postpone the fast and, saying in an interview with the De Telegraaf that he believed “it would be totally irresponsible to comply with Ramadan at this time of the season.”

As Verheijen explained, the lack of food and liquids in the hours leading up to the match causes the muscles to contract more slowly, and increases the risk of injury.

“Imagine that the game ends 0-1 and, after 90 minutes, they have to play an extension, I hope that the players themselves think that will be impossible,” he added.

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