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Dirty Tackle

Ramadan poses a challenge to some World Cup players

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CURITIBA, BRAZIL - JUNE 26: Sofiane Feghouli (L) and Yacine Brahimi of Algeria celebrate after a 1-1 draw during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group H match between Algeria and Russia at Arena da Baixada on June 26, 2014 in Curitiba, Brazil. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

 For complete World Cup 2014 coverage visit Yahoo Sports and follow @YahooSoccer

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?  

In addition to the Algerian national team, Germany's star midfielder Mesut Ozil is a follower of Islam. France and Switzerland also have Muslim players.

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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.

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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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