LONDON – Craving their names as stars in the premier league, Muslim players are increasingly affecting the English football culture, with fasting the holy month of Ramadna and prayer accommodation taking growing attention of fans.
"Arsenal would prefer me to not fast, but they understand this is a special moment for me and they try to accommodate things to make me better," Arsenal midfielder Abou Diaby, 27, told BBC Sport on Friday, July 5.
Newcastle United footballer Demba Ba, 28, admits he has had some issues with managers about Ramadan, but says he has been steadfast.
"Every time I had a manager that was not happy with it, I've said: 'Listen, I'll do it. If my performance is still good, I'll keep playing; if it's bad you drop me on the bench, that's it,'"
Diaby and Ba were among 40 other Muslim stars in the English Premier league.
The Muslim existence on English football pitches dated back to 1992 Tottenham's Spanish midfielder Nayim was the only Muslim player in the league.
Seeking new talented players for the league, scouts brought new players from West Africa and Paris to become global stars.
The growing influx of Muslim players has been fuelled by the internationalization of football.
On 5 February, 2012, Newcastle United played Aston Villa at St James' Park.
Scoring his team’s goal after thirty minutes, Ba raced to the corner flag and was joined by Senegalese compatriot Papiss Cisse to prostrate to Allah.
Named as the best player in a game, Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure politely refused a Champagne bottle award saying he does not drink because he is a Muslim.
When Liverpool won the League Cup final in 2012, players had the sensitivity to move the clothes of their team doctor, a devout Muslim, out of the changing rooms so that alcohol wasn't sprayed over them.
Moreover, Muslims footballers are provided with halal food, have the option to shower separately from the rest of the team and are given time and space for prayer.
Ramadan is the holiest month in Islamic calendar.
In Ramadan, adult Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.
The sick and those traveling are exempt from fasting especially if it poses health risks.
Ramadan this year ends on 7 August, 10 days before the start of the Premier League season.
Along with Ramadan fasting, Muslim players in the English league were facing difficulties with sponsorship.
Crewe striker Nathan Ellington, 32, who has also played for Wigan and West Brom, takes the view that he cannot affect which sponsor his club chooses.
"I think that's usually out of the hands of the Muslim. Although he's not allowed to gamble, that's something you cannot affect really."
Wigan keeper Ali Al-Habsi, 31, agrees.
“We are players and these are things that are coming from the football club. We can't do anything about it, we just do our job."
Earlier this month, Newcastle Muslim striker Papiss Cisse has objected on religious and ethical grounds to wear a shirt that carries the logo of the club’s new sponsor; a sky-high interest rates loan company.
Seeing all those Muslim stars, fans were also getting an education in Muslim practices.
Children playing football in the parks of Newcastle have been spotted falling to their knees as if in prayer themselves after scoring a goal.
Though many kids do not know what it means, many saw it as a sign that Muslim practices are becoming a more familiar part of popular British culture.
Britain is home to a sizable Muslim minority of nearly 2.7 million.
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