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August 12, 2010 at 10:39 PM

Talking to Sanna Nyassi and Sigi Schmid about Ramadan

Our story for the paper is now available online. Here are some extras from the interviews…

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SANNA NYASSI, midfielder

(How will Ramadan affect you?) “Ramadan has started, but there is an article on the Internet and they said that if your main source of income was affected, you don’t have to fast. And fasting really affects your performance as a player because last year when Ramadan began, I started going down physically. I lost weight, and I don’t want that to happen this time around.”

(So you’ve made a decision?) “I’ve already taken a decision that I’m not going to fast for the whole month.”

(Who did you talk to about this decision?) “I did talk to my brother and he said, ‘I think we should consider it because Islamic leaders are talking about it in Germany.’ And I said, ‘Good point.’ ”

(Schmid said you had a conversation with an imam as well) “First Sigi gave me the article he saw from Germany. That was like a week and a half ago. I read it and from there I called back home and talked to some imams. They told me, ‘If it’s going to cost you your job, I think you’d better play. You’re allowed to not fast, then after the season you can make it up.’ So I have an option to fast after the season for a month and also give some money to help needy people.”

(So you can make up those fasting days after the season?) “Yeah, after the season.”

(What was last year like during Ramadan?) “I was practicing and fasting, but I wasn’t playing games. But it was very hard for me and thankfully this year it’s not going to happen.”

(How difficult was it?) “My teammates can’t imagine doing that. They’ve told me they think it’s really hard to not eat from morning to sundown. I was finding it very tough. There was a day I got hit with a ball on my stomach; I thought I was going to pass out.”

(Will your eating be affected at all?) “No, right now it’s normal. I eat normal. I think everything is OK.”

(On it being as positive as you’ve continued to improve) “Yeah, I’ve seen a lot of improvement. I’ve been starting games consistently and working hard during training everyday making sure I get better and better. I’ve been working on my weaknesses and things have gone well for me.”

SIGI SCHMID, head coach

(On Nyassi dealing with Ramadan) “The guy who’s the national-team goalkeeper coach right now, Zak Abdel was my goalkeeper coach in L.A. Zak is Muslim as well and observes Ramadan. He said as a coach he observes it strictly, as a player you were allowed to eat and so forth because you needed that to continue your employment. So he said Sanna should be allowed, he just needs to go and see the appropriate person to get that OK, more or less.

“Last year by the time we got to it, Sanna was just never comfortable asking the question. This year we posed the question to him early and we said, ‘Let’s check this out and make sure this is OK.’ We said, ‘We don’t want to impact or hinder your religious beliefs in any way or do anything that you would feel uncomfortable with.’ So he came back on his own. He spoke to someone from his faith that gave him the OK and so this year he will be eating after practice and replenishing his liquids, which is the most important thing because last year he lost a lot of weight, I think eight pounds. Right now he knows he’s playing and he’s able to do it. We also did some research and we found something where it showed that this is being done by soccer players in other countries that were also Muslim, so he had that information in hand as well.”

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