TUKWILA, Wash. – Sanna Nyassi has a difficult choice to make. With Wednesday’s beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the Seattle Sounders midfielder must decide whether or not to observe the fast.
Last season, Nyassi saw a significant dip in playing time during Ramadan, a 30-day period that requires adherents to abstain from all food and water during daylight hours. A regular off the bench in the first part of the season, the young Gambian played in only one game after August—a cameo in the final playoff match against Houston.
Needless to say, food and water are critical for a professional athlete, especially in the summer months. The 21-year-old admitted that his observance of Ramadan hampered him towards the tail end of 2009, and this season he is contemplating a change.
“This time around, I’m thinking of considering not fasting because it affected my performance last year,” Nyassi said. “I think this year I am going to consider not to fast.”
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 the 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.
“I’ve read it," Nyassi said of that decision. "If it is not a problem with the team for you to fast, you can go ahead and fast. If you think you can fast and play, you can do it. But if your team leader doesn’t want you to do it, I think you shouldn’t do it. When it’s the main source of income, your family depends on you.”
And the Sounders are depending on Nyassi. Since he inherited the right midfield spot from Freddie Ljungberg in early July, Seattle have posted a 4-0-1 record in five league matches. Nyassi has three assists during that time while providing excellent defensive intensity.