Falling on March 22 to April 21 this year, Muslims worldwide are taking part in Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar which involves 30 days of prayer, worship and fasting from dawn to dusk.
To create a more inclusive space, support those who observe the month-long religious holiday, and ensure a healthy and safe environment for all, Major League Soccer made the decision to implement a new policy into its night matches that would incorporate hydration breaks for Muslim players to break their fasts.
“This is very good,” said Cissoko. “When we start the game, we feel a little bit weak after 10-15 minutes because we didn’t drink all day, so it’s good to have this break…I am very grateful to the league.”
Nouhou considers the religious practice of Ramadan “routine” and “normal,” having grown up with balancing soccer and the act of fasting during the Islamic holy month.
Cissoko feels the same.
“For me it is easy because we have done this since we are young, especially Nouhou who did this in Africa,” said Cissoko. “It’s just about habit…In Seattle it’s cold, so it’s easier than in Africa or France; you just need to hydrate well and stay healthy.”
“We wake up at 4 a.m. and eat, drink, pray, then go back to sleep,” he continued. “[Then], training, nap, and then wait for the sunset and eat…It’s simple.”
But to have a North American league like MLS recognize the Islamic holy month by acting in solidarity to those who practice the Islamic faith, meant the world to them.
“For me it was very emotional,” said Nouhou. “I was very happy to get my break and to be able to do that.”
The recent support from their teammates has been helpful as well.
Players like Georgi Minoungu, who is a practicing Christian, will sometimes fast with Cissoko and Nouhou, while also waking up at 4 a.m. and cook for them.
Nouhou said he also found a sense of comfort rooming with forward Léo Chú.
“He is always praying and has his Bible, and it’s the same for me and the Quran,” he said. “I am happy that people support me and I try to support them.”
The Sounders organization as a whole has also been encouraging throughout these 30 days.
“I really appreciate what [the club] does for me, especially for the league, too,” said Nouhou. “They support me during Ramadan…It’s almost done, but it makes me happy for what they do to support me.”
“It’s good that the club shows love and respect,” added Cissoko. “It’s nice to be in this league and with the Seattle Sounders.”
Come watch Seattle Sounders FC take on Minnesota United at Lumen Field on Saturday, April 22!