The head of the Federal Referees Committee, Eric Borghini, justified the decision by saying, “The idea is that there is a time for everything. A time for sports, a time for religious rituals.”
The French Football Federation’s decision not to allow matches to be suspended to allow Muslim players to break their fast during Ramadan sparked controversy among the league, unlike what is happening in other European leagues.
The “Ultras” group raised the Paris Saint-Germain fans on Sunday at the “Parc des Princes” stadium, a banner criticizing the French Federation for the game, whose firm position on Ramadan contradicts the decisions taken in neighboring countries that sympathize with those who fast.
The issue came to light after the French Federation sent a message to the referees on Thursday reminding them of the applicable laws. Stopping matches during the evening that coincides with the end of fasting for Muslim players “does not respect the provisions of the federation’s statute.”
“The idea is that there is a time for everything. A time for sports, a time for religious rituals,” Eric Borghini, head of the Federal Referees Committee, told AFP.
For Borghini, who is a member of the federation’s executive committee, it is simply a matter of “strict application of Article 1 of the federation’s statute regarding the demand for respect for the principle of secularism in football.”
From this reality, the football community has reinvigorated the debate, old and regular, over what should be French secularism: the freedom to practice one’s religion freely, or the primacy of applying common laws to religious beliefs.
“In 2023 we can stop the game for 20 minutes to make decisions, but not for one minute to drink water,” Luca Dini, Aston Villa’s English player, wrote on social media.
Contrary to the controversy in France, the English Football Association took the decision to stop the matches for a short period to allow Muslim players to break the fast during the month of Ramadan, which began on March 22.
And the Dutch League recently took the same steps for the first time, while the head of the referees in the German League announced last year that he supports the referees who decide to grant such a kind of break.
In Italy and Spain, no decisions were planned, but the door to discussion on this issue was not legislated. Moroccan Soufiane Amrabat, who plays for Fiorentina, for example, took advantage of the therapists entering the stadium to drink water and eat food on Saturday evening during the 1-0 victory over Inter.
And England remains the leader in this issue due to the adoption of rest periods two years ago, under the influence of what French Wesley Fofana and Senegalese Sheikho Kouyate, players of Leicester City and Crystal Palace at the time, did after they decided to stop to eat in the middle of the match.
“I was born in France and worked there, but there is a big difference between France and England. The English set a good example,” said Mali Abdallah Doucoure, Everton midfielder.
In the same context, Nice coach Didier Degard said on Friday, “We know that they are more open than us on this issue and it has always been so. It would be great if France did the same, but no one would worry if that did not happen.”
Take care of your health
At Nice, where many players spend the month of Ramadan, the most important point is to take care of the health of players who may feel unwell during the fasting period, according to the young coach. “We accompany them as best we can. We have a high-quality performance center. They are monitored in terms of food and water,” Degar added.
In the Nantes team, Muslim players are exempt from eating meals together and from the second training period, during the days when two training periods are held.
“There is support, there is listening,” says Canary coach Antoine Kombuare, but “on match day you shouldn’t fast. There’s a lot of effort, you have to be ready. Those who fast are not in the group. I don’t want them.” The justification for not calling the Algerian Joan Hajjam against Reims on Sunday in the 29th stage competition, which saw Nantes lose by three clean goals.