World Cup 2014: To fast or not to fast? Mesut Ozil has made up his mind

RIO DE JANEIRO: With the knockout rounds of the World Cup coinciding with the beginning of Ramadan, Muslim players must decide whether to observe the month-long religious fast which begins Sunday. 
France, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Algeria and Nigeria are among the teams that have Muslim players who may choose to observe the 30-day period of fasting and reflection. 
All healthy adult Muslims are expected to observe the month-long fast, although exceptions can be made and the fast postponed.
One player who has made up his mind is Germany's Mesut Ozil. "I can't take part because I am working." 
Religious authorities in several countries take a pragmatic attitude to football and Ramadan when eating is not allowed during the daylight hours. 
In 2008, the Dar al-Ifta, Egypt's main Islamic body, allowed professional footballers to eat during Ramadan if they were bound by contracts to play during the holy month and they felt that fasting will impact their performance. 
Other workers involved in "hard labour" are also given a dispensation. Ozil, who is Arsenal's attacking midfielder, said he falls into this category, adding that it would be impossible for him to take part this year.
Another player who is not fasting is France defender Bacary Sagna.
Sagna pointed out that Islam gives permission to Muslims to not fast in certain cases. "As a Muslim I know some laws allow you to avoid fasting. I will not fast but I respect those who will practise it," said the player of Senegalese origin, reports EFE.
World Cup players who do follow the Muslim fasting month will be under strict medical surveillance. 
The Algerian team will nearly all be fasting when they battle Germany in Porto Alegre on July 1, however. 
The Algerians are consulting Hakim Chalabi, a sports medicine specialist at the Aspetar clinic in Doha and one of FIFA's leading experts on fasting footballers. 
"It is a period when the risk of injury increases, especially in the lower back, the joints and the muscles," said Chalabi.
"This is mainly because of dehydration and not the lack of eating." Players can lose up to six litres (11 pints) of fluids during a match.
The expert, a former medical chief at French football giants Paris St Germain, said the level and quality of nutrition had to be changed to cope with exercise during Ramadan.
"The players must hydrate themselves better. We also advise them to take a longer siesta (nap) during the afternoon to make up for some of the lost sleep." Muslims sleep less at night because of the meal rules. 
According to Algeria's captain Majid Bougherra, drinking enough is the most difficult part of Ramadan. "But we are OK. The climate is good. Some players can delay the fasting. In my case I am going to do it in line with my physical state. But I think I am going to do it." 
Religious sensibilities raised by Ramadan also worry some coaches, especially in teams from a mixture of ethnic backgrounds. 
France's coach Didier Deschamps said he would be giving no orders to Muslim players in his team, who include midfielder Paul Pogba.
"This is a sensitive and delicate topic," said Deschamps. "I have no order to give. We respect everyone's religion. The players are used to it, we are not discovering the situation today. I have no worries." 
Chalabi said there could also be a psychological boost during the fasting month.
"Curiously there are some athletes who have better results during Ramadan because they really want to do the fast," said the doctor. - Wires

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