Updated 06:36 PM EDT, Fri, Jun 05, 2020

As the Religious Holiday Ramadan Looms, Muslim Players in the 2014 World Cup Have Big Decisions to Make

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The Muslim players that are still competing in the World Cup are set to make a tough decision with the holy month of Ramadan starting Sunday.

Ramadan is observed by most Muslims as being a month of fasting from dawn to dusk. No food or drink is to be consumed in between those hours.

With the vast diet restrictions it is hard to fathom how professional athletes will be able to maintain their energy and hydration in the climate of Brazil.

In Sunday's match between Mexico and the Netherlands, temperatures on the field reached upward of 104 degrees. Two cooling timeouts were taken to ensure player safety. With temperatures like that, Muslim players will have a difficult, if not impossible task of refusing to drink fluids during their matches.

Muslims are allowed to skip Ramadan fasting only if they are sick, elderly, pregnant or in times of war. The World Cup may be an extenuating circumstance. In the 2012 Olympics, Muslim nations allowed their athletes to eat during Ramadan, while pushing back the fasting period. Acts of charity can also be used as a compromise for players.

Algerian player Djamel Mesbah told reporters, "We need to discuss it among ourselves. It's clear that our religion is very important for the team, so we will talk about it and see how to go forward."

Bacary Sagna, a Muslim player on the French team has already made his decision, telling AP reporters, "As a Muslim I know that there are certain rules that allow us to avoid it. Personally I'm not going to do it; everyone's free to do as they will and I totally respect those that will do it."

Unlike the Catholic Church, there is no one authoritative voice for Islam. Any Imam can offer up an opinion about the issue, depending on much weight their voice carries. Various Imams in Algeria have spoken both for and against Algerian players pushing back their Ramadan duties.

Mohammed Mekerkab, the head of Algeria's Association of Religious Scholars said in a statement, "It is not allowed for an Algerian player to avoiding fasting just for a game - they must fast because God is with those who fast and young people can fast and play at the same time."

Ultimately, the decision made by the Muslim players in the World Cup will be controversial no matter the outcome. Nations have a great deal of pride tied into the competition, but must respect the religious argument as well. 

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