This Is Surrey Football - Riz Rehman on Ramadan

With Ramadan now well underway, we spoke to Surrey FA's Inclusion Advisory Group Chair, Riz Rehman.

With Ramadan now well underway, we spoke to Surrey FA's Inclusion Advisory Group Chair, Riz Rehman, to learn more about this period of spiritual reflection.


As a Muslim himself, Riz explained what Ramadan consists of as well as finding out how the period will differ this year as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak. He also provides his advice to those who are fasting and may be struggling to stay active during this period, whilst reflecting on how Ramadan and his faith has affected his career in football.


What does Ramadan involve?

‘Ramadan is a month of fasting for Muslims. For a lot of Muslims is a period of fasting, prayer, reflection and charity. It goes from dawn to sunset. Right now it's currently at 14 hours a day.

So that means no food, no drinking and no smoking. Whatever [the indulgences] might be, you have to refrain from all those things as well.


What does Ramadan mean to you?

‘Well, Ramadan is an important time of year for all Muslims around the world. For myself, it is actually a time to reflect, to be thoughtful and to think of those who are less fortunate than ourselves, than myself and about reconnecting with God. Appreciating things in life and your family as well, and everyone around you too.’


What does a typical day during Ramadan look like – and how will it differ this year in light of the Coronavirus outbreak and social isolation measures?

‘Right now, you've got from dawn to Sunset. So, I would get up and about 3am and just after half three the first prayer comes in. Then you can't eat from 3:30 until around about 8:30pm.

In the morning when you start the fast it's called Suhoor. So, in the morning I would probably have crumpets, I love my crumpets! And have coffee and some cereal. I'll try to get as much fluid as I can to keep me hydrated throughout the whole day.

Right now it seems I'm really busy with meetings and calls, and I’m working on my teaching qualification - working on my growth and my personal development.

When it gets around about 7pm I’ll probably go out for a quick run, get back and shower just in time for when the feast opens. My mum normally puts loads of nice tasty food on the table and I say to myself all the time, “I'm going to just eat light first and eat heavy later”. But for some reason, I just didn't tend to tuck right into it and the evening meal! We’ll have rice and samosas - I think a lot of the things are probably what people order when they go for an Indian.

It’s pretty much the same the whole month. When Ramadan does finish, it leads to the Festival of Eid. Eid is a bit like Christmas, where families come together. They eat, they celebrate, share stories and go out.

Obviously, this year's going to be a lot different. We are just connecting with family and friends via Zoom calls, WhatsApp and on Eid itself, it will probably be the same again. Probably put the video [calls] on and catching up with my nieces, nephews, family and friends.’

How did fasting affect you as a young player?

‘From a very young age, my parents instilled in us to fast and wake up in the morning and to try and keep the fast for the whole day. I’d go to school, come back and then train.

In the wintertime it was a lot easier because the days are obviously a lot shorter. But this year for the first time in many years it is falling in the summertime.

So as a young player growing up, especially playing youth football when I was 13-14 and trying to make a break in the game and trying to get a professional club, now and then, or some days, I would fast because I could manage my day and not be too exertive. But on game days I chose not to fast.

It was important to make sure that I had the right diet; the right food 
and make sure I was well-hydrated as well’.

How has faith helped you in your career?

‘I was at Brentford from 14-21. When I got released from the game, I probably went through some sort of depression. If you don't have faith and you don't have something you believe in, you can easily be side-tracked and fall away. For me as a young player then and as a person now, I will try to hold on to my faith and I think that's important for me.’

What advice would you give to players who are currently fasting? 

‘Obviously right now with all the leagues coming to a stop, I think it’s important for young players to keep fit. So, if you are a young Muslim player out there – or whatever age you are, I think it’s important that you don't overindulge in the tasty food.

My advice would be, in the morning before the fast starts, to maybe focus on carbohydrates and slow releasing energy foods like spinach, sweet potatoes, pasta, nuts, fruit, oats, and porridge and drinking loads as well. Plenty of isotonic fluids as opposed to water and ideally between two and four litres, that way you'll be well dehydrated, during the day as well.

Then, when it does come to the evening for the Iftar meal (when you open your fast it’s called the Iftar), you want to try and get some smoothies and protein shakes which really help to regenerate muscles and with recovery.

At the start maybe avoid eating too much too soon. Once you've opened your fast maybe a rest a couple of hours and try to do something in the evening. Maybe a little jog – a 3-5Km run or a HIT session.

A message to our Muslim community

‘I would just like to say to everyone who is celebrating, Ramadan Mubarak. Have a great time with your family and friends and to everyone of all faiths.

Please remember to stay safe. Stay home.’

To learn more about Ramadan, why not download The FA’s helpful factsheet to see how even in these difficult times, faith and football can happily live side by side.