News / Africa

Will Ramadan Fasting Affect World Cup Outcomes?

Preparing to play Germany, Algeria's Rafik Halliche, center, and teammates train at the Arena do Gremio in Porto Alegre, Brazil, June 29, 2014.
Preparing to play Germany, Algeria's Rafik Halliche, center, and teammates train at the Arena do Gremio in Porto Alegre, Brazil, June 29, 2014.

Never mind the guys on the opposing team: Some Muslim athletes heading into World Cup play face heady internal competition between the rigors of fasting and football.

Saturday marked the start of Ramadan, the Islamic month of contemplation, prayer and fasting. While there are exemptions – for infirmity, advanced age or physically demanding jobs – most devout Muslims refrain from eating or drinking anything from sunrise to sunset.

For athletes, that can be a challenge. Even the slightest advantage can influence the outcome of a game, a consideration likely to draw special attention in this afternoon’s match between Algeria and Germany.  It will start less than an hour before sunset in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

An Algerian football newspaper recently reported that Algeria’s head coach, Vahid Halilhodzic, forbade his players against fasting – a charge he and the national football association denied, according to the Associated Press. Algeria is predominantly Muslim, and its team is exclusively so.   

Vahid Halilhodzic, coach of Algeria's national soccer team, at a news conference in Porto Alegre, Brazil, June 29, 2014.Vahid Halilhodzic, coach of Algeria's national soccer team, at a news conference in Porto Alegre, Brazil, June 29, 2014.
x
Vahid Halilhodzic, coach of Algeria's national soccer team, at a news conference in Porto Alegre, Brazil, June 29, 2014.
Vahid Halilhodzic, coach of Algeria's national soccer team, at a news conference in Porto Alegre, Brazil, June 29, 2014.

Halilhodzic, a French-Bosnian who has coached the team for three years, said at a news conference Sunday that players could decide for themselves whether to fast.

The coach objected to questions on the topic, calling fasting "a private issue" on which "players will do exactly as they wish," the AP said.

Impact of fasting studied

This year’s World Cup is the first to overlap with Ramadan in 28 years. So, well in advance, commissioners for World Cup organizer FIFA ordered up several studies on fasting, The New York Times reported.  

The Times quoted the chairman of FIFA’s medical committee, Dr. Michael D’Hooghe, as saying that if fasting is done "intelligently, then then you can adapt perfectly. Before the sun comes up, they [athletes must] have enough hydration to go on through the whole day."

A nutrition expert at Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts, talked with VOA about the physiological challenges of fasting.

Jennifer Sacheck, an associate professor at Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, explained that fasting lowers the body’s storage of carbohydrates. That can reduce blood sugar levels, which can negatively affect mental sharpness and muscle contraction.

In essence, the athlete’s brain competes with brawn.

Carbohydrates also help the body with hydration, Sacheck said, because they bind with water.  If athletes “aren’t taking in carbohydrates, it’s harder to retain fluids,” she said.

Fluid needs

Restricting fluids further compromises the body, slowing delivery of oxygen and other nutrients to the muscles, Sacheck added. The blood thickens, forcing the heart to work harder.

"Any athlete that loses 2 to 3 percent of [his] body weight by sweating will have compromised performance," she said.  

A change in eating habits – ingesting most calories at night – also can negatively affect the body, Sacheck said. "You’d have to get used to getting a lot of calories during the night, which also brings in the issue of sleep , so [digestion] doesn’t mess with your sleep-wake cycles."

However, Sacheck noted that high-level training means "athletes have learned to thermo-regulate better under different environmental conditions." 

And, at least during the match, they can feed on the enthusiasm of their fans.  

You May Like

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video Survivor Video Testimonies Recount Horrors of Guatemalan Genocide

During a conflict that spanned more than three decades, tens of thousands of indigenous Mayans were killed More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Butish Chuetrol Naka from: Lakes state south sudan
July 02, 2014 3:53 AM
you must judge the situations before taking action

by: 1worldnow from: Earth
July 01, 2014 5:04 AM
I wonder if the USA was the top contender in the World Cup if the mullahs, caliphs, muftis, Ayatollahs, etc would say "Eat! Drink! Beat those Americans, then you can pray to Allah for forgiveness, it's OK!" Enough of my hypoctical ranting.

Maybe they should consider playing the games, with teams of mostly Muslim players, at night.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs