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UAE mindful of Ramadan challenges

June 06, 2012 11:09 IST

United Arab Emirates' soccer playmaker Omar Abdulrahman is unfazed about facing Britain at the Olympics -- but the All Whites' task of upsetting the hosts will be made harder by the tournament coinciding with Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting.

The UAE will start the under-23 tournament against Uruguay at Old Trafford on July 26, before taking on Britain at Wembley and then Senegal in Cardiff in their final group game.

These matches will kick off in early evening when the sun is still high in the British summer sky, a major problem for the UAE's Muslim players, with Ramadan demanding the devout do not eat or drink from dawn until dusk.

Fasting will be impossible during and immediately after matches, said Abdulrahman -- players typically lose about 2 litres of body fluids in sweat every game, according to a 2004 study by Loughborough University - but he and his fellow players have yet to decide whether to fast at other times. Doing so would hamper training and match preparations, putting them at a disadvantage to other teams.

"It's a personal decision -- it depends on what it's like there," Abdulrahman said at his friend's home in the desert oasis city of Al Ain. "Everyone in the team knows if they can fast they will, but if they can't they won't."

Muslim clerics have weighed in on the issue, with local media reporting that the religious authorities have excused the UAE's players from fasting. Islam traditionally exempts people who are sick, pregnant or travelling.

"During the match of course one cannot fast," said Abdulrahman, 20. "Hopefully we will make it up afterwards -- we will fast after the Olympics."

The All Whites reached London after going unbeaten through the Asian qualifiers, winning four matches and drawing two to top a group including Australia and Iraq, and attacking maestro Abdulrahman was undaunted at the prospect of playing at Wembley and Old Trafford.

"No, on the contrary, our dream is to reach those stadiums," said Abdulrahman. "We will enjoy it and we won't let it intimidate us. We are going there to make the country proud, our sheikhs and the whole country."

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