West Ham United stage Iftar Event at Chadwell Heath Training Ground

West Ham United stage Iftar Event at Chadwell Heath Training Ground

West Ham United Football Club have staged an Iftar event at the Club’s Chadwell Heath Training Ground as part of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting.

Iftar is a community meal during Ramadan where people of the Muslim faith, of other faith and of no faith, are invited to come together to partake in the breaking of the fast in an environment of respect, mutual dialogue and engagement. Ramadan this year takes place from Sunday 11 March until Tuesday 9 April.

It is the third consecutive year that West Ham United has hosted an Iftar Event, but the first time it has been staged at Chadwell Heath, where the Club’s Women’s team and Academy are based.

In 2022, an Iftar was staged at the men’s training ground at Rush Green while last year, West Ham United Football Club and UKIM Masjid Ibrahim partnered to stage a community Unity Iftar at London Stadium.

I have all the support from all the staff and my teammates
Hawa Cissoko

At the event this year, Men’s team captain Kurt Zouma, Women’s team vice-captain Hawa Cissoko and Academy player Rayan Oyebade, who are of Muslim faith, were in attendance alongside friends and family, Academy players, Club staff, members of the community and the Club Imam Shaykh Khalil.

The event was supported by West Ham United partner Lyca Mobile, who have also provided nutritional support packs to the Club’s Muslim Academy players throughout the course of Ramadan this year.

Lyca Mobile have also supported the Club to create special episodes of the popular content series of Snack Wars, in 2023 and 2024, as a voice for Ramadan within the professional game, shining a light on our men's and women's players during the holy month.

Zouma said: “The Club are helping me and all the others so much. They are always here for us and willing to give us extra drinks, special food and anything else we need, and the Club are very supportive which I’m very proud of. Ramadan isn’t just about fasting, but it’s also about having more family time and getting away from bad habits such as being on your phone, watching TV, and having big meals together. You see a lot of people you haven’t seen for a long time and that’s a massive part of it as well.

“For me, it [Ramadan] is not that hard as I’m kind of used to it and have been doing it for many years. You have your faith, and I believe in God in my religion, so if you can, do it, and if you can’t then don’t do it. It’s not like you are forced to do it.

“They’re very supportive [with Friday prayers] and it’s very important. We have the Club Imam come in on a Friday to pray. I’m very proud to be part of a Club that supports us in every way and we can protect our religion in the best way possible.”

West Ham United stage Iftar Event at Chadwell Heath Training Ground

Fellow France international defender Cissoko said: “The way the Club supports me is by asking me what I need and they don’t do too much if I don’t need it. They always ask if I need food for later on in the evening, starting my day in the morning, and breaking my fast. They always ask if I need anything extra when on the pitch and in the gym, and if I feel tired, I can maybe not do extra training. They do everything they can to let me be myself and help me to be the best I can possibly be.

“It’s even more difficult [as a professional footballer] because we play outside, run a lot, and it’s really demanding, both physically and mentally. I’m not saying it isn’t difficult for people who don’t practise sport because they have long days as well, but for us it’s difficult even if we aren’t fasting for Ramadan. When you’re fasting you don’t eat and wake up early to pray, but I have all the support from all the staff and my teammates. To be honest, this year, from the beginning until today I can already say that this year is the easiest Ramadan I’ve ever had in my life and this is because of the support from everyone.

“My friends were shocked when I told them about what the Club does for us and said it’s so good what they are doing. It means a lot for them and it is things you will never see in France and that is the support we all need. I just feel blessed to be here, see that people support me and try to understand what I’m doing and respect my faith. You feel free and I’m just grateful for that.”

The Club and West Ham United Foundation have forged strong links with the Muslim community across east London and Essex, including the notable work carried out by Employability Manager and Academy Link Mentor Rashid Abba and his team with South Asian communities, providing coaching, mentoring, support and opportunities to players, coaches and their families and friends, with a view to providing opportunities and pathways into the game, and they were also guests at the Iftar event, too.