Bundesliga star thanks referee after halting play for first time to break fast

The Bundesliga game between Mainz and Ausburg last Wednesday was the first in the competition’s history to be halted to allow a player observing Ramadan to break his fast

Moussa Niakhate is observing Ramadan and cannot drink or eat during the hours of daylight

Mainz defender Moussa Niakhate thanked a referee for stopping play during his team’s recent game against Ausburg to allow him to break his fast.

Matthias Jollenbeck halted Wednesday evening’s Bundesliga fixture in the 65th minute to allow Niakhate to hydrate. The 26-year-old is observing Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Those observing do not eat or drink during the hours of daylight.

It was the first Bundesliga game in history to be stopped to allow a player to break fast during Ramadan. Niakhate appreciated the gesture, applauding Jollenbeck and shaking his hand before play resumed. The game finished 2-1 to home side Ausburg.

Other Bundesliga fixtures were paused to allow players to break their fasts. On Sunday, referee Bastian Dankert allowed RB Leipzig defender Mohamed Simakan to rehydrate during his team’s 3-0 Bundesliga win against Hoffenheim.

“There is no general instruction in this regard, but of course we support our referees allowing such drinking breaks during Ramadan at the request of the players,” said Lutz Michael Frohlich, the director of communications for the German Referee Committee, on Monday.

Last April, the Premier League game between Leicester and Crystal Palace at the King Power was halted to allow Wesley Fofana and Cheikhou Kouyate to break their fasts.

Matthias Jollenbeck halted play to allow Moussa Niakhate to break his fast


Getty Images)

“Just wanted to thank the Premier League as well as Crystal Palace, Vicente Guaita and all the Foxes for allowing me to break my fast tonight in the middle of the game,” tweeted Fofana after the fixture. “That’s what makes football wonderful.”

Fofana was substituted in the previous game against West Brom. “It was just one where I thought if I could get him off then he could get some food into him on the bench, and just protect him a little bit,” said Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers.

“I’ve worked with lots of players with devotion to their faiths and for a lot of the guys it gives them strength. He’s finding an incredible strength to play continuously and train during Ramadan. He’s a special talent and a big player for us.”

Some Premier League games are expected to be halted this month to allow players to break their fasts. There was an informal agreement between captains last season to pause games at goal kicks and throw-ins to allow players to do so. This term, captains can request a drinks break at an appropriate moment in the fixture during their pre-match meetings with the referee.

As reported by BBC Sport, teams regularly seek guidance from Muslim Chaplains in Sport (MCS) – an organisation endorsed by both the Premier League and EFL that works with all 92 clubs in the top four divisions to deliver lecturers and seminars.

“Although there is no Islamic ruling for athletes, we provide advice on how they can keep their fasts and discuss whether they qualify for exemptions, such as when they are travelling or are ill,” said MCS managing director Ismail Bhamji. “Muslim footballers come from a varying array of backgrounds and we have to find solutions that would work for all to practise their faith.”

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