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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs