x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

The fast question on everybody's lips ahead of the Olympics

Vote in our poll With the London games coinciding with Ramadan the UAE football team has a dilemma of whether they should fast for the Holy Month or not.

The UAE’s team – who qualified after beating Uzbekistan – will face Great Britain, Senegal and Uruguay at the London Games. The matches will take place in Ramadan.
The UAE’s team – who qualified after beating Uzbekistan – will face Great Britain, Senegal and Uruguay at the London Games. The matches will take place in Ramadan.

One question everyone is asking right now is will the Olympic football team players fast during the London 2012 Olympics, as it coincides with the holy month of Ramadan?

I believe they should not fast.

Sheikh Ahmed Al Haddad, the Grand Mufti of Dubai, has said "players who do not fast can make up by fasting in the period following the games" but it is still not clear whether the players will honour the fast on match days.

Mahdi Ali, the coach, has given the responsibility to the players to decide. Is that a wise idea? I am not so sure.

The UAE will be facing top teams such as Great Britain, Senegal and Uruguay, and they need to be at their best to compete. If all or some players choose to fast, it would compromise the team's performance as a whole.

It has been medically proven that a reduction of food and liquid intake depletes an athlete's liver and muscle glycogen stores. This is likely to lead to a drop in performance, particularly in sports requiring muscle strength.

The days are very long in the summer in London; the sun sets around 9.30pm. So the players will be fasting basically the whole day, especially on match days as the game will be played are during fasting hours.

A special dietician has been assigned to the team, but will that help? Will the players be able to perform their best by fasting?

Myself, thousands of fans, and most medical experts do not think so.

Hamdan Al Kamali, the captain, was tight lipped when asked if he and his teammates will fast on match days.

"We have not taken a final decision yet on the issue but I hope all the players will be united with the decision," he said.

"I will fast if I have to. I just want to make my country proud by giving everything I and the team have."

Khamis Esmail said he believes his teammates will be able to adapt, and he does not agree with his coach that playing during Ramadan will be an issue.

"It's Ramadan, it's really hard, but as usual we will get used to it," he said. "We are fine with it and have no problem with it."

There have been rumours that the players are not in agreement on the issue, and some have decided that they will fast during match days regardless of what others do.

Some individual Muslim athletes say they perform better during Ramadan even if they are fasting because they are more intensely focused and because it is a very spiritual time for them.

Their faith gives them strength and Ramadan is an integral part of that faith and they believe it only has limited adverse consequences for either training or competitive performance.

Many Muslim players who play for top teams, such as Nicolas Anelka, Mezut Ozil, Yaya and Kolo Toure, do not fast during match days and cover up the days after Ramadan so that their performances are not affected.

I believe the UAE players should not only eat and drink on match days, but during the whole training camp. Players will take part in intense training before the matches and that is not possible if they are without any food and liquid intake.

The Olympics is once in a lifetime opportunity and the UAE has made history by qualifying for the first time.

Is that enough? Certainly not. The fans want the players to give their all and perform the best they can which is not possible by fasting and playing.

Still, some of the UAE players are ready to fast and believe their faith and spirit will help them perform at 100 per cent.

Whatever their decision, I hope it works for the team and the players rather than against them.


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