Leicester City first-team coach Kolo Toure reveals challenges of playing while fasting during Ramadan | Football News

Leicester City first-team coach Kolo Toure tells Sky Sports News about the highs and lows faced by Muslim players during the holy period of Ramadan which starts in April.

The two-time Premier League winner emphasised the importance of Islam in his life and the impact of this sacred period on a player.

“My religion is everything and without my religion I don’t think I would be who I am now, because I feel like my religion gave me progress and made me a better person.”

Every year Muslims undergo a sacred period called Ramadan. Lasting roughly a month – this involves fasting during daylight hours, regular daily prayers, self-reflection and acts of charity.

Liverpool's Kolo Toure celebrates their winning goal against Norwich in January 2016
Liverpool’s Kolo Toure celebrates their winning goal against Norwich in January 2016

The Premier League consists of several practising Muslims who will be fasting throughout April’s busy sports schedule.

Ramadan takes place this year between the evening of Saturday April 2, and the evening of Sunday May 1.

The former Arsenal captain, who made his debut for the Gunners over 20 years ago, pointed out some of the challenges he faced during his playing days and how Ramadan influences a player’s psychology.

“I think the not drinking water or hot fluids in your body is the most difficult as a football player, he told Sky Sports News’ Danyal Khan.

“But as soon as you start Ramadan the first day is very hard, the second day is really hard. The first week is very hard. And then your body just gets used to it, and you don’t even start thinking about water.”

The former Manchester City defender revealed that during childhood, when it came to fasting, he was better than his younger brother Yaya.

“With Yaya on the fasting I’m sure I’d beat him easily, definitely.” The pair were in Manchester City’s title-winning 2011/2012 team.

Manchester, United Kingdom - Kolo Toure presents his brother Yaya Toure of Manchester City with gift during the premier league match at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester. Picture date 9th May 2018.
Toure presented his brother Yaya with a gift in 2018 after Yaya’s final Manchester City home match

Toure stressed the significant improvement in his performance during his playing days and the psychological improvement he experienced over the years.

“You have to make sure they don’t notice that you are fasting.

“I think that’s the key. And that’s what I’ve been trying to do. Every time I try to be more focused on training, try to not show any weaknesses.”

Arsenal's Kolo Toure, left vies for the ball with Blackburn's Aaron Mokoena, right during their English Premier League soccer match at the Emirates stadium in London, Saturday, March 14, 2009.
Toure competes with Blackburn’s Aaron Mokoena, during their game at the Emirates Stadium in March 2009

Toure also mentions why some Muslim athletes feel it’s important to take part in Ramadan.

“If they don’t do Ramadan, they will not perform well because psychologically they’re going to be weak. You feel like I’m not connected to Allah, and that will make him soft, and not play very well,” said the defender who won the League with Arsenal, Manchester City and Celtic.

Toure witnessed last season’s Monday Night Football fixture between Leicester and Crystal Palace, where the game was paused for Wesley Fofana to break his fast.

Fofana thanked the Premier League for the gesture which was the first time in Premier League history a game was stopped for a Muslim player to break fast.

Leicester City's Wesley Fofana breaks his Ramadan fast mid match during the Premier League match at St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton.
Leicester City’s Wesley Fofana breaks his Ramadan fast during the Premier League match at St. Mary’s Stadium, Southampton

He highlighted the impact for Muslim players when the game was stopped in the 34th minute.

“That’s where you can see the world is moving forward with people. You can see that people are trying to understand one another which is key in the world, and I think you can see some inclusion.”

Several Premier League clubs now have accommodating facilities for their staff’s religious beliefs. These include Halal food options, multi-faith prayer rooms and registering for the Muslim Athletes Charter.

The end of Ramadan is celebrated as Eid al-Fitr or ‘Eid’ for short, this translates to “The Feast of Fast-Breaking”. The occasion consists of family and friends exchanging gifts and joining as one for a special feast.

Toure, who won the Africa Cup of Nations with Ivory Coast in 2015, jokes he isn’t the captain in his household during the festival of Eid.

“My favourite food will be what my wife cooks, really. You know she’s the boss”, he added.

“We eat food from Ivory Coast. Here in the UK, you can find African food easily, there’s no problem, this is amazing you really feel at home.”

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