RIO DE JANEIRO- Some of the World Cup’s leading stars will have to juggle their religious and footballing commitments with the holy month of Ramadan set to begin during the finals.
It will be the first time since 1986 that the Islamic period of worship has fallen during the tournament.
Muslims fast from dawn until dusk during Ramadan and are supposed to refrain from all food and drink - and that could affect scores of players on show in Brazil this summer.
Ramadan begins on June 28 – the first day of Second Round matches - and runs until July 27. Were the likes of France and Ivory Coast to make the last 16 then several of their players would have to manage their religious duties.
France stars including Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema, Mamadou Sakho of Liverpool, Arsenal defender Bacary Sagna and Newcastle’s Moussa Sissoko are all practising Muslims.
Meanwhile, Ivory Coast brothers Yaya and Kolo Toure – of Manchester City and Liverpool respectively – former Arsenal striker Gervinho and Newcastle midfielder Cheick Tiote are also Muslim.
The majority of the Bosnia squad – including Manchester City frontman Edin Dzeko – are followers of Islam, as are Belgium’s Premier League duo Marouane Fellaini and Moussa Dembele, Switzerland’s key man Xherdan Shaqiri and Arsenal and Germany playmaker Mesut Ozil. One piece of good news for those players is that there are currently just 11 hours of daylight in Rio de Janeiro, compared to nearly 17 in the UK.
Some Muslim players have sought permission to eat and drink during Ramadan but some, such as Kolo Toure, are intent on sticking to the practice of fasting.
Speaking last year, Toure explained: ‘You definitely need discipline. For me, the first five days are difficult but after that, the body just starts to [adapt] and you feel really happy.
‘You clean your body as well and you feel even stronger after Ramadan. I think it’s amazing how Ramadan can make you really strong.
‘I’ve been observing Ramadan during all the years I’ve been in football. It’s very important that you eat well. It’s important that you eat the right food because you can gain weight or you can have less food in your body.
‘That’s why you need to drink very well.
You also need to be aware of what you are doing, because your body is missing things. With the doctor and all the people in the club, we try to work on that. They give me things that I can take to help me feel better.’