Israeli Arab soccer players on Monday accused Israel's National Soccer Federation of religious insensitivity after it refused to reschedule a game during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
During Ramadan, observant Muslims refrain from drinking and eating from sunrise to sunset. When the federation slotted a Saturday game for the mixed Arab-Jewish team of Bnei Sakhnin just four minutes after the end of the fast, seven of the Muslim players ate early to be ready for the game.
Ahead of Ramadan, which began in early October, Bnei Sakhnin had asked the soccer federation not to schedule games for an hour after the end of the fast, the team's Jewish coach, Loufa Kadosh, told Israel Army Radio on Monday.
Immediately after Saturday's game, team captain Abbas Suan and another player drove to the Al Aksa Mosque, Islam's third holiest shrine, in Jerusalem to pray for atonement for breaking the fast.
The federation's manager, Pini Kainan, said that the federation had to hold the game at the designated time due to commercial considerations, including TV broadcast times.