A Muslim leader in Italy criticised Internazionale coach Jose Mourinho for comments the Portuguese made about Ramadan at the weekend.
Muslims around the world are fasting during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, during which faithful followers abstain from eating or drinking during daylight hours. One of those followers is Inter's Ghanaian midfielder Sulley Muntari, who Mourinho hauled off after just half an hour of Sunday's 1-1 home draw against Bari due to the former Portsmouth man's poor performance.
Afterwards, Mourinho suggested Muntari had played badly due to a lack of energy associated with his fast. But Mohamed Nour Dachan, president of the Union of Islamic communities and organisations in Italy, claimed the coach has gotten it wrong. "I think Mourinho could do with talking a little less," he told Sky. "A practising (Muslim) player is not weakened because we know from the Institute of Sports Medicine that mental and psychological stability can give a sportsman an extra edge on the field. A player who is a believing Christian, Jew or Muslim is certainly calmer psychologically and that improves his performance."
"Ramadan has not arrived at the ideal moment for a player to play a football match." - Mourinho.
That is an opinion that Mourinho did not share on Sunday and he was clearly irked with his player after the match. "Muntari had some problems related to Ramadan, perhaps with this heat it's not good for him to be doing this (fasting)," said Mourinho. "Ramadan has not arrived at the ideal moment for a player to play a football match."
Mourinho even suggested that Muntari would be dropped for this weekend's crucial Milan derby due to his diminished condition, saying the club would try to work out a solution with its medical staff. Saturday's derby kicks off at 8.45pm local time, but with sundown occurring at just before 8pm, it would not give Muntari much time to rehydrate and get some energy into his body. Muntari is not the only player in Italy to be faced with this problem, although many other Muslim footballers choose not to practise Ramadan.
Siena striker Abdelkader Ghezzal, who scored in the 2-1 defeat at home to Milan at the weekend, revealed he simply cannot fast and play at the same time. "I observe the fast during my days off, when there are no games or training," said the Algerian. "I've always observed Ramadan but I have had to change my habits for health reasons from the first year that I became a professional. I was at Crotone (then in Serie C1 and now in Serie B) but after two weeks I felt ill and had to stop."
Udinese's Swiss midfielder Gokhan Inler, a Muslim of Turkish origin, is another who is not fasting this month, while Genoa's Moroccan midfielder Houssine Kharja does respect Ramadan. Tellingly, both Ghezzal and Inler played 90 minutes at the weekend, Kharja never got off the bench.