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Two English sports leagues are helping Muslim athletes observe Ramadan this year. Here’s how

During the holy month of Ramadan, many Muslims abstain from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset

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Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah controls the ball during a game on March 15, 2023.

Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah controls the ball during the Champions League, round of 16, second leg soccer match between Real Madrid and Liverpool at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, March 15, 2023. Salah is one of a handful of Muslim players in the Premier League.

Bernat Armangue, Associated Press

For Muslims, the month of Ramadan is both holy and hard. The experience of fasting from sunrise to sunset is rewarding and brings the faith community together, but it also seriously disrupts Muslims’ lives, making it harder for them to get through a school day or workday.

For Muslim athletes, observing Ramadan can feel almost impossible, since it requires them to practice and compete on an empty stomach without the ability to drink water or have a snack. However, many still choose to take part and approach Ramadan as an opportunity to teach others about their often misunderstood faith.

“I want to be an example for children everywhere, showing them that you can thrive when challenged — fasting for Ramadan, for instance, but also going all out in the NBA playoffs,” wrote Enes Kanter Freedom in 2019 for The Washington Post, when he announced he’d be fasting during the NBA playoffs.

This year, the Premier League and English Football League are taking a proactive approach to Ramadan in hopes of making the month a little easier for Muslim athletes.

Officials in those leagues have been advised to stop play when the sun sets during night games in order to give Muslim participants a chance to break their fast, according to ESPN.

“There are a number of players including Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante, Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah and Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan who are expected to fast,” ESPN reported.

In other leagues with more frequent substitution opportunities, individual players and teams can craft other solutions.

In the NBA, for example, fasting players can sub out of the game at sunset for a snack and a drink without disrupting the overall action and then reenter the game a few minutes later.

Even with the support of their teammates, coaches and league officials, Ramadan isn’t easy for Muslim athletes. But athletes who are fasting try to keep their struggles in perspective and often encourage fans to instead worry about other Muslims facing more difficult circumstances.

“There’s always someone having a harder fast than you. Someone who’s on their feet all day outside in the sun or maybe working construction. There are many NHS nurses in the ICU and they’re fasting. I get to wake up and bounce a ball for a living. Respectfully, I don’t think I have the hardest fast in the world,” said Radwan Bakkali, a British basketball player, to Men’s Health last year.

In the U.S. and many other areas of the world, Ramadan begins Wednesday night and lasts until the evening of April 21 this year.