At a late morning practice at the BMO Field, Toronto FC rookie Amadou Sanyang quickly springs to action during a scrimmage. He is quick on the defence, agile during the drills and jogs around the field showing little signs of fatigue.
When a coach comes around with water during a break, Sanyang takes the time to rest and stretch while his teammates hydrate.
It’s only 11:30 a.m. — he still has another eight hours to go before he will be able to drink.
After almost 30 days of fasting, forgoing water is still the most difficult part of Ramadan for the 18-year-old defender who moved to Toronto six months ago from Gambia.
“It’s my religion, and something that I think is a must, so I have to do it. And though it’s not easy for me, fasting for 10 hours in the heat, I do it,” said Sanyang, who has been playing games and practising daily during the Islamic month, which ends this weekend.
It is a dilemma that professional Muslim athletes face as they try to juggle the religious obligations of abstaining from food and water from sunrise to sunset, with the physical demands of daily practices, games and the constant travel.
In almost all cases, athletes who do so, have the support of their teams, coaches and trainers. But it’s a decision that can still ignite controversy. Earlier this month, fasting made headlines in Europe after Inter Milan coach, Jose Mourinho, attributed a tie-game to the fact one of his players was fasting and lacked energy.
Sanyang said his coaches and trainer are supportive of his decision — and he feels it has had little impact on his game.
It also helps that he has company. Teammate Fuad Ibrahim is also fasting and is a source of support for Sanyang.