Zaf Iqbal: Mid-match Ramadan fast break showed 'unity of football'
Written by Training Ground Guru — May 1, 2021
CRYSTAL PALACE Head of Sports Medicine Dr Zaf Iqbal says a landmark mid-game break that allowed two players to break their Ramadan fasts showed the 'unity of football.'
Iqbal, who is also Muslim and is observing the holy month of Ramadan himself, requested the break in advance of the game so that Palace midfielder Cheikhou Kouyaté and Leicester defender Wesley Fofana could break their fasts.
During Ramadan, which is from April 12th to May 12th or 13th this year, practising Muslims are not able to consume food or fluid from sunrise to sunset. As Monday's Premier League game between Leicester and Palace (which the home side won 2-1) kicked off at 8pm, Kouyaté and Fofana had not eaten or had a drink for more than 14 hours.
After half an hour of the game, Palace keeper Vicente Guaita delayed his goal kick so that the two Muslim players could go to the side of the pitch and consume energy drinks.
Afterwards, Iqbal tweeted: "Really have to thank the referee Graham Scott, assistant Jonathan Moss, (Palace manager) Roy Hodgson, (Leicester manager) Brendan Rodgers and (Leicester Head of Medicine) Dr Bryan English.
"None of them had to agree to allow the request for a short break, but they did and as can be seen by the mainly positive messages it was appreciated by many. There was a natural break in play and no-one even noticed until mentioned afterwards.
"The players appreciated and can only help in furthering team cohesion and understanding. This is what football should be about - the ability to entertain and be inclusive, unite, educate and respect each other."
Fofana tweeted: "Just wanted to thank the Premier League as well as Crystal Palace, Vicente Guaita and all the Foxes for allowing me to break my fast tonight in the middle of the game. That's what makes football wonderful."
Premier League rules state that games can be paused if agreed by both captains in advance - and clubs have been reminded of this during Ramadan.
Iqbal, who has worked for Palace for six years, further reflected on what Ramadan means for Muslim players and staff in an enlightening interview with the club's website this week.
“It [Ramadan] is really a period of self-control, self-reflection and just appreciating what you’ve got," he said. "Obviously it’s much harder for an athlete compared with myself, because of the fact they need to be well hydrated.
“From in the evening right through to the morning they will have several times lots of fluid and lots of food then. As soon as the sun goes down, that’s the time to do it.
“And we have to be careful that as soon as it is time to eat we don’t go crazy and undo all the good work we have done. We generally open the fast with some quick-release carbs, so a date or some milk, usually go and pray and have a small meal after that."
Kouyaté revealed that team-mate Christian Benteke, who is not Muslim, had taken part in the fast to show unity with his team-mates.
“After [training] we go to his [Benteke’s] house. He does Ramadan [with] me, Mama [Sakho] and Jordan [Ayew]. And he prays with us in the night. Yeah, it's very, very good. It's a very good experience.”