Sanna Nyassi has a problem. As a replacement for the recently traded Freddie Ljungberg, the Seattle Sounders midfielder knows that he'll be relied upon even more than usual during this season's home stretch. But the Gambian Nyassi is also a practicing Muslim. And yesterday marked the first day of Ramadan, the holy month that requires followers to abstain from eating or drinking water during sunlight hours.
Seattle Times Sounders writer Joshua Mayers Tweeted the good news earlier this morning.
And MLS' official website expanded upon the deal Nyassi brokered earlier this week.
A recent shift in thinking among the Muslim community could provide Nyassi the religious leeway to forgo fasting. In Germany, a recent determination between a Muslim group and German soccer authorities allowed Muslim players to avoid fasting during Ramadan. According to Al-Azhar, the pre-eminent theological group of Sunni Islam, a player is obliged to perform under a contract if that is his only source of income and fasting would negatively affect his performance.Dilemmas spawned by the intersection of religion and sports aren't exclusive to Muslims. Sandy Koufax famously refused to pitch Game One of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur, a Jewish holy day. And former Utah Jazz owner and devout Mormon Larry Miller refused to watch his team play on Sundays, even when it meant missing Game Seven of the Conference Finals.
The dilemma created by Ramadan is also not a new phenomenon. Houston Rockets star Hakeem "The Dream" Olajuwon was said to actually play better when Ramadan fell in the middle of the season, once winning the NBA's Player of the Month Award for the month during which he fasted. (Sorry if this is starting to sound like a Wikipedia entry, but damn if this stuff isn't fascinating.)