Riyad Mahrez during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Manchester City at Stamford Bridge, London, January 2023.

A sensational XI of players observing Ramadan in 2023: Mahrez, Salah…

Across the world, Muslims are currently observing the holy month of Ramadan – a month of fasting, prayer and reflection commemorating the prophet Muhammad’s first revelation – including a number of world-class players that represent top clubs like Liverpool, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Chelsea.

There are plans in the Premier League to give Muslim players a break at an opportune moment to allow them to break their fast once the sun has set. This will make a big difference for some of English football’s top superstars and hopefully other leagues across world football follow suit.

We’ve put together a full XI of Muslim footballers that are currently observing Ramadan.

GK: Bono

Bono, the goalkeeper that helped Morocco reach the World Cup semi-finals last December, is currently fasting during daylight hours while Sevilla fights against relegation from La Liga.

“Because the body has not had food for a long period of time during the day, as soon as you put excess food into the body and it doesn’t get used up, it’s going to get stored [as fat],” Crystal Palace’s head of sports medicine Dr Zafar Iqbal told The Mirror in March 2023.

“We have to be careful, especially during Ramadan, that the players don’t gain excess fat. The only way to do that is to make sure they are eating the right kind of foods as well.”

RB: Cheikhou Kouyate

Nottingham Forest and Senegal midfielder Kouyate has played right-back in the past, and became part of Premier League history during his Palace days by stopping to break his fast during a match at Leicester in 2021.

“It was nice [at Leicester],” said Palace’s Head of Sports Medicine Dr Zafar Iqbal. “Before the game myself and the Leicester doctor, Dr Bryan English, were discussing emergency routines and discussed that we had players fasting.

“We wondered if it would be sensible to ask the referee, Graham Scott, if at an opportune time at sunset we could have a break to allow those fasting to have a drink and some food to open their fast.

“Graham was fine with it, as were the managers [Brendan Rodgers and Roy Hodgson]… We kept it low-key so that people wouldn’t realise it happened and so we couldn’t be accused of disrupting the flow of the game.

CB: Antonio Rudiger

Rudiger is a practising Muslim and used Chelsea’s trip to the United Arab Emirates for the Club World Cup in 2022 to underline his faith, posing in religious garments with his then team-mates.

CB: Wesley Fofana

“He’s a young player in the middle of Ramadan, so he’s not eating during the day,” Brendan Rodgers said after Fofana’s excellent display in Leicester’s FA Cup semi-final victory over Southampton in 2021. “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.”

Now at Chelsea, the centre-back will be allowed to break his fast mid-game like he did during the aforementioned Palace v Leicester match in 2021.

“That’s what makes football wonderful,” he said at the time. He’s correct.

LB: Noussair Mazraoui

Mazraoui has spoken in depth about his Muslim faith and how it’s helped shape his career.

“I have my religion,” Mazraoui said in an interview with Tz last August. “That’s number one in my life… [praying] helps me a lot to deal with things that don’t go my way, or things that turn out in my favor. This way of thinking helps me to go through life.”

When asked about Ramadan, the Bayern Munich and Morocco defender replied: “It’s okay, but sometimes it’s also very exhausting.

“Many people don’t know what their body is capable of. The body can achieve a lot if the will is sufficient. It doesn’t affect my performance – sometimes, I even perform better during Ramadan because it is a holy month.

“My faith gives me strength and also drives me on the pitch.”

CM: Abdoulaye Doucoure

“I always love Ramadan,” Everton midfielder Doucoure recently told BBC Sport. “Sometimes playing football has been hard because Ramadan has been in the summer and during pre-season.

“But I have always been lucky to practise Ramadan and there have never been problems with my physical condition – I am grateful for that.

“My religion is the most important thing in my life – I put my religion first, then comes my work. You can do both together and I am happy with that.

“You get so much free time so I am always able to go to the mosque to pray and to enjoy my religion when I’m at home.”

CM: N’Golo Kante

Kante 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.”

The Chelsea and France midfielder has suffered from injuries this season, but Ramadan isn’t thought to have a serious determinantal impact on the health of those that practise it.

CM: Sofyan Amrabat

One of the breakout stars of the 2022 World Cup, Amrabat was born in the Netherlands to Moroccan parents and will be devoutly observing the practice of Ramadan.

The Fiorentina midfielder is coveted by a host of Premier League sides after his displays in Qatar last year and will be looking to maintain his recent standards over the next few weeks.

RW: Riyad Mahrez

Mahrez has been one of the Premier League’s leading players over the last decade, helping Leicester win the title in 2016 before adding to his trophy collection with Manchester City.

And the Algeria international is a practising Muslim who has previously made the Umrah pilgrimage to Mecca. He’ll be observing Ramadan for the next month.

LW: Ousmane Dembele

Dembele is a devoted Muslim and the Barcelona and France forward always marks the religious feast of Eid Mubarak on his social media accounts.

The player, along with others observing Ramadan, will be well monitored and with blood and urine tests to know how fasting affects his state of health. After Ramadan, it is usual to perform anthropometry to know the physical state after the month of fasting.

ST: Mohamed Salah

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

“It is not about football – you know the reality between the clubs – but as a human being I love him [Salah],” said Doucoure in his recent BBC interview. “As a footballer you always want to be an example and Mohamed Salah is one of those.

“He is doing well at his club so people love him, but they also learn about his religion Islam. He is a good example for us and is perfect.

“He is good for society and if myself and my team-mates can be an example to others in the city [of Liverpool], that would be great.”

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