Kolo: What Ramadan means to me
Like millions of Muslims around the world, Liverpool's Kolo Toure is currently observing the Holy Month of Ramadan.
A period of self-control and discipline, Ramadan involves 30 days of fasting, from dawn until sunset - but how does the lack of food and drink affect the preparations of professional athletes like Toure?
Earlier this week, Liverpoolfc.com dropped by Melwood to speak to the Ivorian defender about Ramadan and what it means to him.
For our fans who don't observe Ramadan, please can you explain what Ramadan is and what is involved?
Ramadan is part of the Muslim religion. You have to go for 30 days without eating or drinking at a certain time of the day. From three o'clock in the morning until nearly 10 o'clock at night. During this time, you can't eat or drink - but as soon as the sun goes down, you can start eating. The next day you start again.
Do you think footballers face an additional physical challenge during Ramadan?
Yes. I've been observing Ramadan during all the years I've been in football. It's been tough, but at the same time I feel like I am much stronger, because my mental condition takes over. It's definitely hard, but when you believe in God, nothing in impossible.
Do you create a meal plan during Ramadan to ensure your body is receiving the correct foods during pre-season training?
Yes. It's very important that you eat well. It's important that you eat the right food because you can gain weight or you can have less food in your body. That's why you need to drink very well. You also need to be aware of what you are doing, because your body is missing things. With the doctor and all the people at the club, we try to work on that. They give me things that I can take to help me feel better.
Do you find that the self-discipline involved in being a footballer helps you during Ramadan?
Yes. You definitely need discipline. For me, the first five days are difficult but after that, the body just starts to [adapt] and you feel really happy. You clean your body as well and you feel even stronger after Ramadan. I recently watched a programme on BBC about Demba Ba - and he scored a lot of goals after Ramadan because he was much fitter. I think it's amazing how Ramadan can make you really strong.
Do you have to train at different times during Ramadan?
For me, it doesn't matter because mentally I'm ready for it and I go for every challenge. I give 110 per cent in training - it will never be a case of me saying: "No, I don't want to train as hard." I want to train just as hard and I want to win every single game. For me, Ramadan is not an easy time because it's a time when I need to work much harder, because I need to help my teammates. That's the way I see things.
The festival of the Breaking of the Feast is celebrated at the end of Ramadan, how will you celebrate this festival?
I will celebrate like every Muslim - with my family, my wife and my kids. Maybe they will be here [in Liverpool]. The celebration is big - everybody is very happy because it has normally been a tough month. Ramadan is an important part of Islam, and when you are observing it, God is happy with you and you have to have a big celebration. We eat, we have a party and we give praise. We enjoy the day as much as we can.
As Ramadan is based on a lunar calendar, and therefore changes every year, will it be more difficult to observe during the football season?
I have done Ramadan during a season. And for me, it was alright. It depends on the age of players. I'm different; I do my own thing.
Is the club supportive of your decision to observe Ramadan?
Massively -[the club] have been unbelievable. Fantastic. Everybody around me has tried to help me; the physios, the doctor and the coaches. They have a room for us to pray here at Melwood. It's not only for Muslims, but for Christians as well, which is amazing. That shows the football club is supporting people like us, who want to pray. It's not easy because we have different lifestyles, but by being Muslim or a religious person, you have to do certain things. It's fantastic of the club to support people who trust in God.
Finally, do you have a message for all our Muslim fans around the world?
Assalamalykum to all the Muslims that are fasting - Ramdan Kareem and I pray that God eases all our suffering and helps those in need.
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