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Siriki on life as a footballer during Ramadan


AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

The month of Ramadan is a difficult challenge at the best of times, let alone when you’re an elite level footballer in the midst of a promotion challenge.

AFC Bournemouth winger Siriki Dembele will have that experience as he begins his participation in Islam’s holiest month.

Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar and is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting, prayer and self-reflection.

During the month, Muslims are expected to fast from dawn until sunset, if healthy and able, and will devote themselves to prayer and recitation of the Quran.

The 25-year-old joined afcb.co.uk to discuss his experiences through the month and how much Ramadan means to him:

“It means a lot. Ramadan is part of being a Muslim, it’s the holy month of trying to repent, ask for forgiveness and ask for everything you want in life so it’s really important.”

Dembele, who participated in his first fast at the age of 16, sat down with the club’s sports science team, led by Alastair Harris, to plan the month ahead.

Together, they worked out what he needs to eat in order to maximise his energy over the course of the day and to ensure he receives all the nutrients to perform in training and matches.  

Ramadan began on Saturday upon the sighting of the crescent moon and Dembele marked it with a wonderful solo goal against Bristol City, beating a host of players to slam home the Cherries’ third in a home win.

He described what an average day looks like in the month, revealing how early he has to get up in order to have a full meal before sunrise.

“I’ll wake up at around 3am or 4am, before the sun rises. I’ll have a big meal and then I won’t eat until the sun sets at around 7pm or 8pm.

“During the day, if I’m not training, I’ll try and read the Quran, try and stay off social media as much as possible, pray a lot more and try to do my best to give it everything I can for Ramadan.”

Dembele will receive the full support of the football club during the month, head coach Scott Parker confirmed during a press conference last week.

He explained: “I’ve obviously faced [Ramadan] before with players. Our medical and sports science guys will be on top of that in terms of putting their best procedures in place for players that are obviously fasting and making sure they’re in the best possible place to perform when needs be.

“It depends on each individual in terms of exactly how they go about it. I’ve had different players with different ways of how they want to go about it really, so we’ll just have to see regarding that and make calls moving forward with it.”

One of the key reasons that Muslim’s partake in Ramadan is to practice empathy for those who are less fortunate, instilling compassion for those suffering from food insecurity, and encouraging actions of generosity and charity.

The Cherries will be marking Ramadan at the upcoming home game with Fulham, working with the Dorset Race Equality Council to welcome ten local Muslim men and women to Vitality Stadium, who have not previously been able to attend a game.

Dembele revealed he is grateful for the perspective that he gains during the month as well as the support being offered to him from the club.

He commented: “The club have been really supportive!

“My faith has always been a key factor of my family life since I grew up. My parents have instilled that in us and we’re big believers in God. It’s really important.

“The kind of perspective you gain from Ramadan, you are more grateful when you’re doing it.

“I’ve been lucky to always have enough to eat, to have most things, so you get to see life for more than what it is and you’re more grateful for everything that you have, because there are so many people less fortunate than you.”

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