August 26th, 2009
12:33 PM ET

Is it right to drop a fasting footballer?

Portuguese football coach Jose Mourinho, ever the headline creator, has caused further outcry this week after he substituted Ghanaian midfielder Sulley Muntari from his Inter Milan side during a drab 1-1 draw a league game against Bari.

Taking a tired player from the field of play was hardly breaking news, at least it wasn't until Mourinho revealed the move had been prompted because the player's perceived "low-energy levels" were as a result of fasting.

Muntari is a practising Muslim who, like many of the same faith around the world, is currently not eating during the hours of daylight to mark the Ramadan holy period.

A discipline that clearly irked Mourinho who said in a post-match press conference: "Muntari had some problems related to Ramadan, perhaps with this heat it's not good for him to be doing this (fasting). Ramadan has not arrived at the ideal moment for a player to play a football match."

Muslim leaders in Italy have criticized the opinions of the coach known as the "Special One", but Mourinho did not rule out the possibility of dropping the player for the Milan derby - between arch rivals Inter Milan and AC Milan - this weekend for the same reason.

Is it right to drop a fasting footballer?
Elsewhere in Italy, fellow Muslim and Siena striker Abdelkader Ghezzal added to the debate by revealing he cannot fast and play at the same time.

"I've always observed Ramadan but I have had to change my habits for health reasons from the first year that I became a professional. Before that I played at Crotone [while fasting] but after two weeks I felt ill and had to stop."

So is Mourinho right to take account of how religious practices may affect his players' performance? Is it wrong to drop a fasting footballer whose energy levels may be lower than his teammates? Should Mourinho contemplate that a player of faith may perform better in a period of self-enforced discipline? And can sport and religion ever be separated in a satisfactory way?

Let us know your thoughts below.

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Filed under:  Football