Challenges faced by Islamic football players in non-Islamic leagues

  (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

Presence of Islamic football players in non-Islamic leagues has been steadily rising, with prominent players like Paul Pogba and Mohamed Salah making headlines for their outstanding performances on the field. Nevertheless, these athletes often encounter unique challenges that can influence their well-being and overall performance due to their religious beliefs. 

In the competitive world of football, various factors contribute to the experiences of Islamic players. Difficulties such as cultural awareness, religious obligations, and the now widespread practice of football betting affect these players often. Striking the right balance between their faith and the demands of professional football is an ongoing challenge for many of these players. 

In this article we will delve into these concerns, highlighting the efforts being made to create a more inclusive environment for Islamic footballers in non-Islamic leagues.

Balancing Faith & Performance

One of the primary challenges that Islamic football players face is finding a balance between their religious obligations and the demands of professional football. For instance, during the month of Ramadan, Muslims are required to fast from sunrise to sunset, which can directly affect their physical performance. In some cases, this has led to an increased risk of injury or decreased performance on the field.

This balance is also challenging when considering the sleeping schedule of a player. Once this has been changed, the player is then faced with the difficulty of fasting from morning till dusk. The techniques vary based on the time of day, whether the training takes place in the morning, the afternoon, or the evening. Since winter strategy focuses more on nutrition and energy while summer strategy focuses more on hydration, it is essential to have more knowledge in order to prepare strategy according to the weather. 

Accommodations for Ramadan are easy for participants in Muslim countries, but there are also many participants in non-Muslim countries like France and the UK. Because there are no changes made for Ramadan in such countries, it becomes a serious issue in the summer when the days are longer. Since food is essential for optimum performance and recovery, coaches urge athletes to eat a variety of foods that are high in nutrients and have a broad macronutrient profile.

Lack of Cultural Awareness & Accommodation

Islamic football players in non-Islamic leagues often confront insufficient cultural awareness and accommodation to their needs. The challenges faced by islamic football players include a shortage of prayer facilities at stadiums, inadequate comprehension of dietary requirements, and even episodes of discrimination or racism.

Numerous players have expressed the need for clubs and leagues to embrace inclusivity and be more considerate of their religious and cultural necessities. The ultimate goal is to establish an environment where everyone feels valued and respected equally.

The New Charter for Muslim Players

In response to the challenges faced by Muslim football players, such as those experienced by Paul Pogba and Mohamed Salah, a newly developed charter has been introduced to improve their experiences in non-Islamic leagues. 

This charter, inspired by Premier League's Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Paul Cleal, aims to provide clubs and football associations with guidance on how to more effectively support Muslim players. It addresses aspects such as specific dietary needs, access to prayer facilities, and fostering cultural sensitivity.

Moreover, the charter focuses on urging clubs to connect with local Islamic organizations and communities to deepen their understanding of Islam, ultimately creating a more welcoming atmosphere for all players. This initiative was welcomed by renowned players like Pogba and Salah, who have publicly shared their experiences with Ramadan and other religious observances during their football careers.

The Future for Islamic Football Players in Non-Islamic Leagues

As the number of Islamic football players in non-Islamic competitions increases, it is becoming increasingly clear that clubs and organizations must recognize the distinct challenges these players face and take steps to foster a more inclusive environment.

While the new charter for Muslim players is a crucial step in the right direction, continued commitment and effort from all involved parties will be necessary to ensure that these players can excel both on and off the field. For instance, adjusting training schedules and understanding the potential impact of fasting during Ramadan on players' performances can make a significant difference in accommodating their needs.

This article was written in cooperation with Jonathan Smith