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

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs