After A battling Algeria were knocked out of the World Cup in Brazil, many commentators put it down to the fact that the month of Ramadan had already started and many of the players were fasting and hence lacked the strength and energy required for a make-or-break match against tough opponents, Germany. The Algerians lost 2-1. Later, the coach made it clear that fasting during Ramadan was a personal choice and players could make their own decisions on the issue. For Muslim footballers still playing in the World Cup, it’s a tough decision whether to hold the month-long religious fast this year or to give up their holy custom in order to play at their peak. During Ramadan, which started from June 28, every adult Muslim is expected to refrain from taking in food or liquids during the daylight hours. With the knockout rounds of the 2014 Fifa World Cup coinciding with Ramadan, Muslim players are in a dilemma. One of them is Mesut Ozil, the midfielder who scored the winning goal for Germany. Ozil, who plays for English first division club Arsenal, has said that he has decided not to fast, saying it was impossible to observe Ramadan this year, considering Germany are in the last 16 and will need every player to be at their peak physically. More so since almost every game at this stage has been going to extra time or penalty shootouts, which take the game way past the 90-minute mark. The Belgium-USA match went the full distance of 120 minutes.
Unlike in 1986, the last time Ramadan clashed with the World Cup, there were very few Muslim players in the final stages. This time, almost every team in the last 16 has a fair share of Muslim players, including France, Germany, Switzerland (beaten by Argentina last Tuesday) and Belgium. During the 2012 London Olympics, which also coincided with the month of Ramadan, many Muslim athletes faced the same problem. For sporting events such as the Olympics and the World Cup, clearly, the national stakes are so high that many countries relax the Ramadan rules for the period: athletes and players are allowed to fast in another month or donate to charities. The rule relaxation was originally permitted to soldiers and travellers. Bacary Sagna, one of the Muslim players in the French squad, has already said that he will not be fasting during the World