x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Olympics: The UAE Olympic team do not have to fast

Mahi Ali, the coach, would prefer his players not to fast during Ramadan.

The UAE Olympic football team arrived at Manchester airport, in the UK, on Saturday.
The UAE Olympic football team arrived at Manchester airport, in the UK, on Saturday.

MANCHESTER // Before embarking on the long training camp ahead of London 2012, Mahdi Ali spoke of the competitive difficulties faced by footballers who attempt to compete while fasting during Ramadan.

"It is like giving someone half a tank of fuel and asking them to compete against someone with a full tank," he said.

He made his comments in May. Last week, Yousuf Al Serkal, the Football Association president, reiterated that players will be allowed to make their own choices on the matter during the Olympics, but it is expected that none of them will fast.

Mahdi Ali said: "The players will not be forced to break their fast, but I am sure they will choose to do the right thing. It is not easy to play during fasting."

The UAE players who do not fast have received sanction from a senior Muslim cleric, who cited a verse from the Quran that exempts travellers from fasting.

Potentially the most difficult aspect of the fast, while playing football, is not being able to rehydrate during matches; players are known to shed several kilos of water weight during a 90-minute match even when they are taking fluids at half time and at breaks in play.

The off-the-pitch members of the UAE football delegation will fast during the competition, according to one FA official.

The Emiratis will not be the only Muslim footballers at the competition; Egypt and Morocco are also in the 16-team tournament, and expectations are that their players will not fast during competition.

Sheikh Khalid bin Abdullah, the chief executive of the Bahrain Olympic Committee, told the Associated Press: "Our athletes will not be fasting during the Olympics. It's simple in Islam. Since they are travelling, they can take these days at the Olympics on loan and then make up for them until next Ramadan."

poberjuerge@thenational.ae

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