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How footballers maintain themselves during Ramadan? An insight into players' lives

Published at :April 17, 2024 at 4:42 PM
Modified at :April 17, 2024 at 4:42 PM
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(Courtesy : Bleacher Report)

Keshava Verma

Several Muslim players have started this practice over the years during Ramadan.

The sheer athleticism it takes to compete in professional football when combined with fasting in observance of Ramadan, places Muslim athletes who observe this practice, in a league of their own.

During the month of Ramadan, many Muslims engage in fasting from sunrise to sundown. This practice can have deep impacts on players, as a change in diet can hinder a player’s performance, and also affect their recovery process. 

Despite these difficulties, modern football is seeing a growing rate at which Muslim players are playing despite observing a fast. 

Although the players receive due credit for showing exceptional mental strength and will, to play under such unfavorable conditions, not enough credit is given to backroom staff. Consisting of several people including nutritionists, medical officers, and even the coaching staff, are the people who help develop a favorable plan, to enable footballers to continue with their performance.

So today, we unfold before you all the planning and preparation that takes place behind the scenes, which enables the players to perform in the best way possible, whilst fasting.

It is to be noted that the following information has been provided by the head of performance of the Pakistan Men’s National Team, Claudio Altieri. Altieri revealed in a recent tweet, as to how his department prepared the national team during Ramadan, when they had to play two games against Jordan, in five days. 

Sports Science during Ramadan

During the March international break, whilst the Islamic world was observing Ramadan, the Pakistan national team had its preparations in full swing, for the World Cup Qualifiers clash against Jordan on the 21st and 26th of March. 

To ensure that the performance of the players was not hindered due to the fast, a few strategies were applied by Claudio and his team. So let’s take a look at the plans he devised. 

1 . The first strategy devised was regarding the breaking of the past after sunset. Right at IFTAR, at 6:13 pm, the players broke their fast, keeping the food intake limited to bananas, dates, water, and sports drinks. The IFTAR was followed by a field training session from 6:20 pm to 8:30 pm, with dinner being scheduled for 9 pm. 

2.  The meal before sunrise, also known as Sehri, was scheduled between 4-5 A.M. and consisted of food items high in protein, carbohydrates, and natural juices with high sodium, magnesium, and potassium not only for protein synthesis but also for hormone (testosterone) increase.

3. During the fast, mobility and isometric strength training was organized at 2 P.M. outdoors. According to Claudio, Researchers found that up to 30 min of sun exposure helps increase vitamin D for individuals, and there is also a significant correlation between isometric strength training and injury reduction among field sports athletes.

4. Another important aspect of Claudio’s strategy was to question the players on their hunger levels, which allowed him to not only see adaptations of athletes during Ramadan time but also to monitor any possible fatigue spikes.

5.  Daily cognitive activity before training or as a warm-up task was also an instrumental aspect of the team’s training. According to various researchers, increasing cognitive tasks before physical activities can increase concentration, memory retention, and decision-making.

This five-step routine was followed by the Pakistan Men’s National team throughout their international camp, and the results were astonishing. 

Throughout the team’s preparation, there were no non-contact injuries across 17 field sessions, combined with two international matches including international flights with connections and time zone differences, not to forget that all the while, the players were only eating two meals a day, once before sunrise and the other before sunset. 

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