"My religion is everything": Kolo Toure on why Ramadan is important for Muslim footballers
Leicester City first-team coach Kolo Toure has spoken about the significance of Ramadan and fasting and why it is important for Muslim footballers.
As part of Sky's 'Ramadan and Me" series, the former Arsenal and Manchester City defender also talked about his relationship with his faith.
"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," the two-time Premier League winner told Sky Sports News.
Toure talked about the struggles of fasting as an elite footballer and said it was important for him to 'stick to the rules' for the blessed month and to make an extra effort.
“I think the not drinking water or hot fluids in your body is the most difficult as a football player," he said.
"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."
Acceptance of Ramadan in the Premier League
The Premier League has many practising Muslims who will be observing the fast during the whole of April, a busy period where games come thick and fast as the season draws to a close.
But despite the intensity, Toure says when Muslim athletes are allowed to fast, it helps them psychologically as they feel they are not ignoring something essential in their faith.
"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.
In a Premier League clash last season between Leicester City and Crystal Palace, the referee paused the game to allow Muslim players Wesley Fofana and Cheikhou Kouyate to break their fast.
Toure highlighted the significance of that moment: "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."
Last season, in the Premier League there was an informal agreement between captains to allow players to break fast when there was a natural break in a game — like a throw-in or goal kick. And this season, captains are expected to do the same.
The former Arsenal captain, who made his debut for the Gunners over 20 years ago, said he did not face any objections as a player when he fasted.
It was important for him to be disciplined and still conduct himself professionally when observing Ramadan: "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."
Last year, we hosted a webinar where footballers Faysal Bettache and Ilias Chair, as well as QPR’s Head of Medical Dr Imtiaz Ahmad, spoke about Ramadan and what it is like for athletes to fast and play competitive sport.
Image: Ailura, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons