Iftar and Tackle: How Rugby League is adapting to Ramadan

LThe Broncos’ Challenge Cup defeat to Warrington Wolves last weekend was largely underwhelming considering the final scoreline, but midway through the Broncos’ 42-0 drubbing, there was one feature that almost everyone would have missed. Moments of great significance.

Backroom staff providing water to players is nothing new, but London’s physical therapist was seen taking to the field with some dates specifically for the Broncos’ Hakim Miloudi to break his fast while the game continues to stress , maybe the rugby union still needs to do some work recognizing Muslim athletes. “I didn’t have time to stop and break my fast properly, I started tackling within seconds of finishing my meal,” Miludi said with a smile.

Rugby league is played in northern towns with significant South Asian and Muslim communities, such as Bradford and Batley, but the sport has never been able to fully attract them.Miludi is one of two London players to celebrate with Muslim pride alongside Elise Makani RamadhanAlthough fasting for more than 12 hours a day can present challenges while trying to train and perform as a full-time professional athlete.

“The support from the club has been fantastic,” Makani said. “Nothing about my training plan is set in stone. If I feel weaker than usual because of fasting, they are happy to stop and modify my training. But they believe in me. Tell them that if things get too difficult, which they sometimes do, I can skip meetings. We’ve done a lot of experimenting to see what works best for me and we’ve found good common ground. I believe in the club.”

Makani and Miludi are among a handful of Super League players observing Ramadan, including Salford center Nene McDonald and Catalan winger Fouad Yaha, who became the first Muslims appearing in the 2021 Finals. London is a pioneer in signing up to Ramadan. The Muslim athlete concession agreement with Nujum Sports is aimed at attracting more Muslim athletes to participate in the sport.

“I’ve been observing Ramadan since I was a kid, for a whole month. It’s been difficult sometimes,” Miludi said, “but I want to teach my son the importance of Ramadan and that it’s not just about fasting, but also about Ramadan.” “The spiritual aspect. “There are so many people here celebrating Ramadan, which is really crazy because in France it’s different. But here all the clubs look after the players and make them happy and not out of place.”

Salford’s Nene McDonald makes a breakthrough against Leeds United in the Super League. Photo: Matt West/Shutterstock

Makani agreed: “There’s a lot more awareness now. The RFL have been working hard and they’re keen to get input and support players.”

The Bradford Bulls recently hosted an iftar dinner with prayers played over loudspeakers in the stadium. But as a former Bradford player, Makani still believes there is more work to be done. “It’s always been a problem with the game,” he said.

“Even when I was at Bradford, for example, I didn’t see a lot happening in the school. But more and more young players are seeing and identifying with players like us, if they can Seeing a Muslim player in the Premier League observing Ramadan “shows that there are no barriers. It’s one thing we need to push for more, stories like ours, to show kids in these communities what rugby league can be.” A choice for them.”

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The pair also hope rugby union will consider in-game breaks, like football matches, to allow players to break their fast properly and avoid a repeat of the chaos that Miludi did when the game resumed last week. A ‘step’ is a break that allows players to take a proper rest rather than taking a break in the middle of a game,” he said.

Still, Makani and Miludi hope to leave a legacy greater than their performance on the pitch. By talking about their faith, they hope to inspire young people from communities with a larger South Asian population to take up the sport. “I’m a proud Muslim and having someone identify with me and seeing a professional player doing what I do, hopefully it means something,” Makani said.

“I would be delighted if it paved the way for today’s youngsters to try rugby league. As Hakeem said, the next step is to provide players with breaks to fast in the future, as they did in It will be a great moment in football like that. But I just hope that players like us can lay the foundation for future generations and that the number of young Muslim players will increase in the years to come. If we can help Make a little difference and that would be great that would happen.”

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