London Broncos duo call for fasting break to help Muslim players observing Ramadan

Aaron Bower

London Broncos pair Hakim Miloudi and Iliess Macani have revealed how they hope to inspire young Muslim athletes to take up rugby league after sharing their experiences of combining faith and sport – before admitting they would like to see the game do more to support players observing Ramadan by introducing fast breaks.

Miloudi and Macani are both currently observing Ramadan, the holy month which has a huge significance in Islam. It involves fasting, reflection, community and family time – but the London duo are combining fasting for up to 12 hours a day while training and playing as professional sportsmen.

Muslims observing Ramadan fast from sunrise to sunset each day during the month, which can mean playing games without eating for prolonged periods: something Miloudi experienced last week, when he actually broke his fast mid-game during their Challenge Cup tie with Warrington Wolves, which kicked off at 5:30pm.

“There was no time to stop and break my fast properly, I was literally making tackles within seconds of eating,” Miloudi tells Love Rugby League.

Incredibly, he was given a handful of dates and some water, which Macani – who didn’t play last week – had ready for him on the sidelines. He consumed them while the game was ongoing – and the pair now hope that by speaking about their experiences as Muslim rugby league players, they can inspire change and enable more youngsters from Muslim communities to take up the sport.

That includes pushing the game to introduce a special fast break where the game is stopped for a brief period, like is seen in other sports including football, to allow players observing Ramadan to break their fast in a safer manner.

Miloudi says: “It would be better if we could stop the game for 30 seconds or a minute to help us break our fast. Last week at Warrington, the physio ran on and gave me a handful of dates and same water and I was breaking my fast while at the same time being in the middle of the game.

“The game hadn’t stopped. Hopefully the next step is having a small break in-play.”

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Macani agrees: “I had his dates ready and when the time came and the physio went on, he got some water and a bit of food. But it’d be great if we had the same awareness as football where we could stop for a minute and break our fast. Even just a tiny water break, it would help us out a lot.”

More and more rugby league clubs are attempting to engage with Muslim and south Asian communities. Bradford Bulls recently hosted an Iftar – the evening meal when fast is broken for the day – as well as playing the call to prayer – known as the Azaan – over the Odsal loudspeaker. Huddersfield also hosted an Iftar last week.

But Macani, a former Bradford player himself, thinks the game can still do more – particularly when it comes to engaging with young, aspiring Muslim athletes.

“This has always been a problem for the game,” he says. “Even when I was at Bradford, I just didn’t see much going on in schools, for example.

“But the more young players see and identify with players like us, if they can see there’s a Muslim player in Super League observing Ramadan, it shows there are no barriers. That’s one thing we need to push more, stories like ours, to show kids in those communities that rugby league could be an option for them.”

And the pair hope that by sharing their story, they can show there is no barrier for anyone looking to become a rugby league player.

“I’m a proud Muslim and to have someone identify with me and see that a professional player is doing what I do, hopefully that means something,” Macani admits.

“I’d love it if it paves the way for youngsters today to be encouraged to try rugby league. Like Hakim says, the next step is bringing in a break for the players to fast in the future like they have in football, that would be a great moment.

“But I just hope players like us can lay the foundations for future generations and in the years to come, the number of young Muslim players goes up. It’d be nice if we’d played a small part in helping that happen.”

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