West Ham Women defender Hawa Cissoko has spoken about her experiences fasting during Ramadan as a professional player and praised the club for its inclusion strategy.
Cissoko joined West Ham Women in 2020 and the 25-year-old is one of many Muslims in elite football who are playing during Ramadan. She spoke about her personal experiences of the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.
“It means a lot of things, because it’s like a new year starting, because we know that we have to use this month to try to be the best human as we can. So, it’s like the beginning of something,” she told Sky Sports News.
“And at the end of Ramadan, the best thing is to try to keep some knowledge, some behaviour, a lot of things and try to keep this for the next Ramadan coming.”
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Ramadan has already started and is expected to last until Sunday May 1. During this period Muslims are expected to fast between sunrise to sunset for roughly a month. The holy month involves regular daily prayers, acts of charity and self-reflection.
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Image: Hawa Cissoko has also played for PSG and Marseille (Picture: West Ham United)
When asked about what the most challenging aspects are, she said: “Even when it’s not Ramadan time, I wake up every day in the morning to pray, so it’s changed nothing about my routine.
“I eat a lot. I love food. I can have my lunch and 30 minutes later, I want to eat again. So, I think this is the hardest thing. When you’re in your head, you’re fasting, and you know why you’re fasting it’s completely different.”
Cissoko also talked about what it’s like fasting as a professional footballer and her routine this month. She said: “With the nutritionist of the team, we have like planning a food schedule. We’re trying to be smart about what I’m going to have to have enough energy for the training and the game.”
During daylight hours Muslims will not eat or drink until sunset each day. The Premier League has several athletes including Hawa fasting through the busy sports schedule.
Image: Cissoko in action against Brighton in the WSL a few days before the start of Ramadan
The France international also praised West Ham’s strategy for inclusion and talked about working with club staff.
“It’s not me going in and talking about this with them. It’s them coming all the time. It’s nice to hear that people want to help you.
“The physical trainer came and asked me that we have to make a plan about my training session, my gym session… and the nutritionist as well he came to make this plan. And I was like, this is just amazing, this is nice, to help me to be better.”
During Ramadan West Ham gave Cissoko a box created by Nujum Sports which included dates for opening the fast, holy water, a prayer mat, perfume, and other helpful items for the holy month.
Image: Cissoko battling for the ball against Chelsea in the WSL
Last season’s Monday Night Football fixture between Leicester and Crystal Palace saw the game paused for Wesley Fofana to break his fast. It was believed to be the first time in Premier League history a game has been paused to allow Muslim players to eat and drink mid-game, once the sun had set.
When asked about the importance of this moment Hawa said: “I feel like this is, I can’t even describe it, it does something inside because I know that everyone is with you everyone is supporting you.
“Like last year, when it was Eid day, we [with then player Kenza Dali] went to the mosque in the morning and when we came back here for the training, like just everyone applauded us and we were like, why? What is the reason?
“But we were like because they know how big this month is for us. They know how special these days is for us. And just to see all this support is just amazing, incredible.”
At the end of Ramadan, Muslims celebrate Eid Ul Fitr, this involves spending time with loved ones and friends, exchanging gifts and feasting.
The former PSG player says she loves to see everyone together. She says everyone wears the same clothes, a fabric is chosen, and everyone can customise it how they like.
She said: “It’s just like my favourite part of it. But the food is like – I eat everything. So, like I love all the food.”
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