French Football Federation tells players not to observe Ramadan

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The French Football Federation has made it clear to the Muslim players in the national team that it will not make any allowances for the fact that they are fasting during Ramadan.

The national team, which includes several Muslim players such as Ibrahima Konate and Ousmane Dembele, is currently preparing for two friendlies against Germany and Chile.

But according to French media reports, the FFF has “invited the players to delay their fasts” while they are with the national team.

The federation has also made it clear that matches will not be stopped to allow players to break their fast, training will not be delayed, and meals will happen with everyone present.

“The pitch is not a place for the practise of religion, whatever religion that may be,” the FFF is quoted as saying.

It added that according to its own regulations it is obliged to respect “absolute religious neutrality.”

Executive Committee member Éric Borghini said: “The Federation has responded to this situation with texts which prioritise secularism. We clearly affirm that the sports field is not a place to practice religion, whatever that religion may be. No one should ask the Federation not to apply the laws of the French Republic.”

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Meanwhile, ESPN is reporting that midfielder Mahamadou Diawara has left France’s under-19 squad after learning that the French Football Federation (FFF) have installed new rules forbidding Muslim players from fasting during Ramadan when training with the national team.

Diawara did not feel comfortable with the new rules, which are implemented from U16 level through to the senior team, and decided to leave and return home to his club side, Lyon, ESPN sources said.

Every French national team head coach, from U16 boss Lionel Rouxel to senior head coach Didier Deschamps, told their players the new rules at the start of the international break.

“Some players are not happy with this decision,” an agent representing a number of players in a number of France’s youth and senior sides told ESPN. “They believe that their religion is not respected and that they are not respected either. Some don’t want to cause a fuss but Mahamadou was not happy with it so he left.”

In recent years human rights groups such as CAGE have documented the unprecedented crackdown on Islam and Muslims in France under the government of Emmanuel Macron.

CAGE concluded that the pattern of behaviour exhibited by the French state towards Muslims was calculated to harass and humiliate, resulting in the intentional and severe deprivation of freedom of religion, of opinion, of association and right to property.

In 2021 the French parliament approved a law to strengthen oversight of mosques, schools and sports clubs. The government said it was needed to safeguard France from “radical Islamists” and to promote respect for secularism and women’s rights. The law has been used to shut down multiple mosques and community groups.

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