Players and staff from the Academy of Football have taken part in workshops with the Professional Footballers’ Association about Ramadan, one of the biggest celebrated religious festivals across the world.
With West Ham United recently awarded the Premier League’s Equality Standard Advanced level, recognising the Club’s ongoing dedication and commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI), the discussions were instigated following a workshop between Academy Manager Ricky Martin and his staff, and Riz Rehman, Player Inclusion Executive at the PFA.
With the sighting of the new Moon, over 1.5 billion of the global population are beginning the celebration, which marks the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is a time when Muslims all over the world fast from sunrise to sunset amidst a period of deep spiritual reflection.
As the Islamic calendar is lunar, meaning each month begins with the new astronomical moon, Ramadan is set to take place during the course of the footballing season for the majority of the next three decades.
Committed to furthering the diverse environment within the Academy, reflective of West Ham United’s commitment as a Club, Martin therefore invited Rehman to Chadwell Heath to discuss Ramadan with players and staff directly.
Rehman explained: “Recently, I did a workshop for Ricky Martin and all of his Academy staff. They found it very enlightening, and it really helped inform all of their practices and set-up, so I came in to speak to some of the boys, introduce myself and let them know what I do at the PFA.
“Ricky and the Academy have been brilliant. Where they’re based, the Club have really embraced that, and it also opens up a new fanbase as well which is ultimately what we want.
“I think what West Ham are doing in terms of connecting the players, buddying up, is a step in the right direction. We need even more clubs doing things like that.”
Martin added: “It’s been great for our young players and staff to talk about the Ramadan festive period, and how important that is for the environment here at the Academy.
“We’ve got the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Group at the Football Club, and I’m really proud to be a member of it. It’s something that I want to embrace in the Academy of Football.
“Under the Player Care team, led by Kiera [Colthart], we’ve created a cultural calendar, and that really helps us to support the diversity amongst our players within the Academy programme.”
Riz really knows a lot so it was good to see what he had to tell us. I really enjoyed it and learned a lot from him
Amadou Diallo, a Muslim player who took part in one of the workshops, appreciated the opportunity, saying: “It’s really important that everyone understands what we’re trying to do.
“For example, we have to pray at certain times, so if you tell the boys to turn the music down or turn it off, they’ll understand.
“Riz really knows a lot so it was good to see what he had to tell us. I really enjoyed it and learned a lot from him.”
Starting his footballing career at Brentford as a youth, Rehman spent seven years with the Bees and had a short spell as a professional before injury ruled him out of the game.
As a practising Muslim, Rehman’s work helps to promote awareness of the impact that Ramadan has on the sport.
He explained: “I’ve seen from my work at the PFA that there is a growing number of Muslim players in the Premier League and across all four leagues now. We can all name at least one or two in the Premier League.
“I think that awareness piece is needed really. I’m seeing an increase in Muslim players in our academy system, so we need to know about Ramadan and how we can support our players and their parents during the course of 29 or 30 days.
“When you do a marathon, you have to plan for it, and it’s the same with Ramadan; it’s 30 days of fasting from sunrise to sunset, so as a wider support network team, let’s work with the player and help them to plan for that month of Ramadan.
“It’s important for players and their parents to know what their teammates are going through, what impact it can have and some of the changes – your sleeping pattern changes, your eating pattern changes – and how can we embrace those.”