An amazing XI of players observing Ramadan: Salah, Pogba, Benzema…

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Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring against Manchester United at Anfield, Liverpool, April 2022.

Muslims the world over are currently observing Ramadan – a month of fasting, prayer and reflection commemorating the prophet Muhammad’s first revelation – and this includes a number of high-profile footballers, who play for clubs like Liverpool, Manchester United and Real Madrid.

Fasting during Ramadan means no food or fluids can be consumed during daylight hours. The practice is to cleanse the soul and mind. Ramadan 2022 began at the start of April and ends with the celebration of Eid on May 2.

We’ve compiled an XI of Muslim footballers that are currently observing Ramadan, lining up in a 4-3-3 formation.

GK: Edouard Mendy

Edouard Mendy has made a few high-profile errors of late, but his is the exception rather than the norm for a ‘keeper who has been outstanding for Chelsea ever since he joined.

Mendy helped Chelsea to the Champions League title in his first season after signing in the summer of 2021 and could add another major trophy to his collection if Chelsea beat Liverpool in the FA Cup final this May.

Born and raised in Senegal, Mendy is a Muslim and is currently observing the fast, which is the Fourth Pillar of Islam.

RB: Achraf Hakimi

Spanish-born Hakimi is a devout Muslim. The PSG full-back, often identified as one of the world’s best in his position, observes Ramadan every year.

“I think I made the decision to play for Morocco because it’s where my parents come from, how they raised me in a Moroccan, Muslim home, so I thought I’d be more comfortable playing for the Morocco national team,” Hakimi told the Bundesliga website in 2020.

CB: Wesley Fofana

Fofana earnt the praise of Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers after last season’s FA Cup semi-final victory over Southampton during the Ramadan period.

“He’s a young player in the middle of Ramadan, so he’s not eating during the day,” Rodgers said. “It’s remarkable.

“I’ve worked with lots of players with devotion to their faiths and for a lot of the guys, it gives them strength. He’s finding an incredible strength to play continuously and train during Ramadan. He’s a special talent and a big player for us.”

CB: Antonio Rudiger

Rudiger is a practising Muslim and used Chelsea’s recent trip to the United Arab Emirates for the Club World Cup to underline his devotion to his faith.

Pictured alongside team-mates Ismaila Sarr, N’Golo Kante, and Hakim Ziyech, Rudiger appeared in religious garments and posted the photo on social media in support of all Muslims currently observing Ramadan.

His future at Stamford Bridge remains uncertain but Rudiger’s commitment to the Muslim faith is unquestionable.

LB: Sead Kolasinac

The former Arsenal defender, who now turns out for Marseille, also plays for Bosnia and Herzegovina – the country of his parents.

Kolasinac was once part of a group of Muslim players at Arsenal that included Mesut Ozil and Shkodran Mustafi and that offered inspiration to the club’s supporters who share their faith.

“One of the deciding factors as to why I became an Arsenal fan was down to the club’s diversity,” one supporter told Football.London.

“Arsenal has always been a diverse football club having fielded players of different faiths such as Yossi Benayoun and Bacary Sagna and this show of diversity and unity within the team and the fan base is what makes Arsenal so appealing to me.”

CDM: N’Golo Kante

The Chelsea and France midfielder once fasted in secret at Caen in the midst of summer, according to an episode of Oh My Goal’s Soccer Stories.

“It was also really hot, so you could tell that he was suffering,” said teammate Jerome Rothen. “He approached me [and said], ‘Jerome, please don’t say anything. I’m asking you to do this.’

“I respected his choice …. In the end, he didn’t say a word. He did everything.”

CM: Paul Pogba

Pogba adopted Islam as an adult and Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick was recently asked in a press conference whether Pogba’s fasting during Ramadan was to blame for his poor form in recent weeks.

“No, no,” said Rangnick. “As a player and as a professional, he’s used to that and he knows how to handle that and to deal with that.

“Actually, I haven’t spoken with him about that but I don’t think this will affect his game and his performance.”

Pogba has previously spoken about discovering his spiritual side in recent years. “It made me change, realise things in life,” he told The Independent in 2019.

“I guess, maybe, it makes me more peaceful inside. It was a good change in my life because I wasn’t born a Muslim, even if my mum was.”

Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard of Manchester United in a match against Arsenal, Old Trafford, December 2018

READ: 5 players set to leave Man Utd on a free this summer: Pogba, Lingard…

CM: Ilkay Gundogan

Gundogan has been outspoken about his Muslim roots growing up in the German city of Gelsenkirchen and reaffirmed his strong faith with an extremely charitable donation last year.

The Manchester City midfielder sent over 3,000 meals to Indonesia – the country with the largest Muslim population in the world – to help those in need during the month of Ramadan.

In the true spirit of the Third Pillar of Islam, which promotes almsgiving and charity, Gundogan used his own wealth to give something back in an act of extreme kindness.

RW: Mohamed Salah

Arguably one of the most famous Muslims in the world, Salah is currently observing Ramadan – although the Egypt international has not spoken publicly about his plans for fasting.

But, judging by his pair of goals against Manchester United, fasting is definitely not affecting Salah’s game.

LW: Sadio Mane

In a previous interview with the Daily Mail, Mane said: “Religion is very important to me. I respect the rules of Islam and I pray five times a day, always. I won’t touch alcohol.

“There was no conflict between religion and the fact that I wanted to play football. I was brought up correctly and in the right way and my parents are proud of the fact that I am a footballer.”

Mane’s father was even the Imam of a local mosque in his home country of Senegal.

ST: Karim Benzema

Benzema has been in sensational form all season but his exploits against Chelsea and Sevilla this month have reinforced his position as one of the world’s best strikers – and he did it all while fasting.

Speaking about Ramadan in an interview with Esquire, Benzema said: “It has no effect. Ramadan is part of my life and my religion makes Ramadan a duty. For me, it is very important and I always feel good when I fast.”

Lyon's Karim Benzema celebrates scoring against Metz. Stade de Gerland, Lyon. April 15, 2008.

READ: Recalling Karim Benzema at Lyon & the thrill of watching a great emerge


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