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DC United’s Star Muslim Goalie Balances Faith with Soccer


DC United goalkeeper Bilal "Bill" Hamid prays on the field. (Image taken from video courtesy of DC United)

Ramadan, Islam’s holy month, poses unique challenges for professional athletes like soccer player Bilal Hamid.

Ramadan is a time of reflection honoring the first revelation of the Quran to the prophet, Muhammad. It’s also a month of fasting during which able-bodied Muslims abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset.

Hamid is a star goalkeeper for Washington’s Major League Soccer club, D.C. United.

“Obviously, this isn’t a big soccer country, but… I’ve been a massive soccer fan my whole life. It’s a part of my culture," Hamid says. "It’s a big part of my family and a part of where my family originates from.”

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Hamid, who goes by Bill, is a first-generation American whose Muslim family comes from Sierra Leone. He prays with them before games and alone when he takes the field.

“I’m usually standing on my goal line," he says. "I’ll say Al-Fatiha [an essential prayer in Islam] right before the game. Right when we cross the white line, I’ll say another Al-Fatiha… and then from there just focus my mind solely on the game.”

During Ramadan, he makes some adjustments.

“I do my best on the days where I know that we don’t have a game coming up," he says. "It’s all important in the holy month of Ramadan to make sure you’re making the right choices.”

FILE -- D.C. United goalkeeper Bilal "Bill" Hamid, left, stops a shot on the goal.
FILE -- D.C. United goalkeeper Bilal "Bill" Hamid, left, stops a shot on the goal.

Hamid, one of the best goalkeepers in Major League Soccer who also plays on the U.S. national team, balances his faith with his professional life.

“It’s not easy being on the field especially in times like this where the heat is going to get bad," Hamid says, "... so I want to have the right things in my body to make sure I’m giving myself the energy and strength to play as well as I can.”

Otherwise, Hamid says, he follows tradition.

“I know that if we don’t have a game coming up, I’m going to make the right choice, and I’m going to fast," he says. "And make sure I get my prayers in and make sure that the things I put in my life are the right choices on those days that I’m fasting.”

FILE -- DC United goalkeeper Bilal "Bill" Hamid (28) reaches for the ball during a MLS game.
FILE -- DC United goalkeeper Bilal "Bill" Hamid (28) reaches for the ball during a MLS game.

For Hamid, it's a disciplined labor of love.

“It’s not easy to be a faithful servant in this religion, but nothing’s meant to be easy, so you just have to do your best.”

Hamid says it’s the lessons he’s learned from his family and faith that guide his life on and off the field.

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    Arash Arabasadi

    Arash Arabasadi is an award-winning multimedia journalist with a decade of experience shooting, producing, writing and editing. He has reported from conflicts in Iraq, Egypt, the Persian Gulf and Ukraine, as well as domestically in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, Maryland. Arash has also been a guest lecturer at Howard University, Hampton University, Georgetown University, and his alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife Ashley and their two dogs.

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