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Nigeria’s Kelechi Scores Again As EPL Muslim Players Get Support To Break Their Fast Mid-Game

Kelechi Iheanacho
Kelechi Iheanacho.

BEVERLY HILLS, April 28, (THEWILL) – In an expression of the understanding on the part of the English Premier League and of gratitude on the religious fast-observing footballers, it was revealed that two EPL teams Leicester and Crystal Palace reached a pre-match agreement with referee Graham Scott to pause their match on Monday after half an hour to allow Wesley Fofana and Cheikhou Kouyate to break their Ramadan fast.

This meant that, at that exact time, Palace goalkeeper, Vicente Guaita Panadero, delayed taking a goal kick so that both Fofana and Kouyate could take energy gels at the side of the pitch, which they used to break their fasts, before rejoining the match that Leicester went on to win via a Kelechi Iheanacho pile driver from inside the Palace box.

During the Ramadan fast, healthy adult Muslims keep off food and drinks from sunrise to sunset for one month. It is the first time in the history of the EPL that a game was held up to allow Muslim players to eat and drink mid-game and for play to resume immediately after.

The import was not lost on the Leicester City player, Fofana, who immediately tweeted words of appreciation for goalkeeper, Guaita, the Palace team and the EPL for the momentous occasion of allowing him to break his fast during the game.

His tweet read: “Just wanted to thank the Premier League as well as Crystal Palace, Vicente Guaita and all the Foxes for allowing me to break my fast tonight in the middle of the game.

“That’s what makes football wonderful.”

Brendan Rodgers, who substituted Fofana in another game on Thursday last week, said: “It was just one where I thought if I could get him off then he could get some food into him on the bench, and just protect him a little bit.

“I’ve worked with lots of players with devotion to their faiths and for a lot of the guys it gives them strength. He’s finding an incredible strength to play continuously and train during Ramadan. He’s a special talent and a big player for us.”

For the match on Monday, because of the pre-match agreement with Palace that allowed him break his fast mid-game, Fofana was able to play the full 94 minutes for Leicester. And he did not take it for granted, as his words showed.

As one of the five pillars of Islam, fasting is mandatory for all adult Muslims during during Ramadan. It is how adherents express their devotion to the tenets of their religion and to Allah.

The exact dates of the holy month of Ramadan are not fixed as they are based on a lunar cycle with start dates declared after moon sightings. As a result, the month falls approximately 10 days earlier each year in the Gregorian calendar. For 2021, it began on Monday, April 12 and will end on Wednesday, May 12.

It is commendable that the match was paused to accommodate the faith of the players, which is itself a demonstration of the welcoming embrace of the game for people of a diversity of faiths, belief systems, backgrounds and orientations, coming together under the banner of football to compete, entertain and unite.

It is the lesson that a variety of sports continue to teach the world, that we can all be united, irrespective of our differences, in the things we hold dear, while allowing others to express themselves and together we can forge ahead in peace and love.

In addition to that, this underlying message of religious accommodation must extend to racial acceptance as well. That is why football must continue to do everything it can to stamp out the vile poison of racism, which threatens this united front of togetherness.

It is commendable also that all football Associations and all football teams in English football have signalled their decision to suspend their social media activities for a period to press home the need to pay serious attention to the issue and move towards ensuring solutions.

As reported by THEWILL, the English Football Association (FA), the EnglishPremier League (EPL), the English Football League (EFL), the FA Women’s Super League and other organisations collectively decided on a boycott of social media next weekend in protest of the unhealthy situation faced by those at the receiving end of this sort of abuse.

The scheduled withdrawal from the services will start from 3pm on Friday, April 30 until 11:59pm on Monday, May 3. These main bodies of football administration in England are to be joined in their boycott by the Women’s Championship, the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA), the League Managers Association (LMA), the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), Kick It Out and the Football Supporters Association (FSA).

It may not immediately end the issue but it demonstrates a willingness to do something about it and create the avenue for concrete steps to begin.