Breaking Barriers with Ali Khan

Breaking Barriers with Ali Khan

Steph Clark
Football and Ramadan | A player's journey

Ali Khan has been playing football since the age of 10. 

As an adult in his late thirties, he continues to participate in the game he has loved since childhood, playing as a central midfielder for Elmhurst FC in Buckinghamshire.

Of Islamic faith, Ali balances his love and participation of the game with his belief, especially when it comes to playing football whilst observing the holy month of Ramadan. 

As Ali, and many Muslims across the world, get ready to celebrate Eid al-Fitr (an official Islamic holiday and marks the end of the month-long dawn-to-sunset fasting of Ramadan) we caught up with him to find out more about Ramadan; what it means to him, how it affects his football and his hopes for a more inclusive game going forward. 

What does Ramadan mean to you?

As a Muslim, Ramadan is the holiest month of the Islamic year whereby an individual is required to reflect on life and train abstention from both foods and vices.  It is a time of the year that I look forward to most as it helps me re-focus and step back from the daily distractions of everyday life. It allows me to spend more valuable, meaningful time with family and friends and allows me to focus more on my faith. 

What happens during Ramadan (what can/can’t you do whilst you’re observing it)?

Muslims are not permitted to eat or drink from sunrise to sunset. Muslims are also required to abstain from any foul and obscene language and behaviour (this is a requirement in everyday life but has greater focus during Ramadan). Fasting is only incumbent on Muslims who are healthy and are physically able to participate and those who are not travelling long distances.  

Is it difficult to continue play football whilst fasting? How do you manage training and playing?

Personally, I do not experience any noticeable effects while playing and fasting. I try to maintain my hydration after sunset, and this seems to help me stay hydrated during the day. I continue to exercise throughout the month of Ramadan while fasting although I do not do as many High Intensity workout sessions. My focus is mainly on some light cardio and weight training. The fasting allows my body to heal and helps my body recover during an intense season.  

How does your football club/team help support you during fasting?

They manage the training sessions by reducing the workload and support us by trying to manage game time if any players feel they are unable to complete the full game. They have been proactive in trying to rearrange fixtures if possible but this is often very difficult to do due to the league's restrictions on fixture dates.    

What changes do you think clubs could implement to help make playing football during Ramadan easier/more accommodating for Muslim players?

Clubs should recognise that players who are fasting may find it difficult to train and/or play for long periods, especially if the weather is hot. As such, clubs should try to allow players more flexibility on training session and/or game availability. I would also encourage the League committees to consider later kick-offs to ensure games are completed only a short time before players are permitted to eat or drink. Morning kick-offs or early afternoon kick-offs are difficult for players who then have to wait a number of hours before being able to re-hydrate.

What are you looking forward to most about Eid?

Spending time with my family and friends and celebrating together. The food isn't bad either :) 

How easy is it to get back to normal eating/training regime once Ramadan has finished?

Personally, I don't find it difficult as I maintain some level of physical activity throughout Ramadan, so it is not very difficult. If anything, it shows me that I don't need as much food to fuel my workouts as I think I do.  

On his hopes for the future game, Ali is encouraged that more work is being done to raise awareness of Ramadan and what it means to and for players who are fasting whilst playing.

With increased awareness and insight into the experiences of players observing Ramadan, Ali hopes to encourage open dialogue and positive change to support players who are fasting and to ensure that football continues to break down barriers to participation and become truly inclusive for all. 

To find out more about Inclusion in Football and the work happening across our region, please visit our dedicated Inclusion section of our website.

Alternatively, for opportunities on how to get involved in local football, in any role, and the types of support available, please contact us.

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