Algeria's draw with Russia yesterday meant that they qualified for the World Cup's knockout stages for the first time. But it also meant that the team comprised entirely of Muslims will play during Ramadan.
The annual observance, which lasts from June 28 to July 28 this year, asks Muslims to fast during daylight hours. They are allowed to eat and drink before sunrise and after sunset.
This might pose a challenge for some Muslim players at the World Cup. Should they observe Ramadan and place religion above sport? Or should they make an exception, given the special circumstances and the physical demands of soccer?
For his part, Ozil said at a press conference in Recife ahead of Germany's group match with the U.S. that he would not participate in Ramadan this year.
"I will not take part because I am working,” he said.
The French will likely take a hands-off approach. France coach Didier Deschamps admitted to the New York Times that fasting was a topic of debate in the French dressing room. But he distanced himself from the idea that he would tell his Muslim players what to do.
“It’s a really touchy subject,” Coach Didier Deschamps said. “There is nothing I can say. We respect everyone’s religion. Players have the habit of following that custom, so I’m not really worried about that. Everyone will adapt.”
Deschamps won't have to worry about French defender Bavary Sagna who said he wouldn't observe Ramadan during the tournament.
The Swiss team, however, has apparently taken a tougher stance on fasting. A spokesman told the New York Times that its players would have to wait until after the tournament to observe Ramadan.
Last Monday FIFA chimed in, effectively saying that Ramadan should not be a concern. According to its chief medical officer, recent FIFA studies on the effects of Ramadan showed "no reduction in the physical performances of players."
You have to wonder if those studies were conducted in summer conditions like those in Brazil.
FIFA also suggested that players could take advantage of an exemption that allows Muslims to observe Ramadan at a later date.
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- Didier Deschamps