Muslim sentiments ignored at FIFA World Cup

A year ago, ‘Rocket Science’ the Newsletter of Mt Albert Islamic Centre in Auckland, reported the inconsiderate timing of the London Olympic Games coinciding with the Holy Month of Ramadan, with consequent implications for athletes’ fitness levels.

Once again this year, we report the inconsiderate timing of another major world sporting festival with Ramadan – the FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

You would be forgiven for thinking that it may not affect the result much, as the favoured teams to lift the Cup are from South America (Brazil, Argentina) and Europe (Germany, Spain). You would be wrong, because even the most unlikely teams have Muslim players.

Muslim players

Not surprisingly, the teams from Muslim-majority countries such as Algeria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Ghana, Iran and Ivory Coast have plenty of Muslim players.

Less predictably, the Swiss team have several Muslim players. They have Albanian, Macedonian, Bosnian, Cape Verdean and Ivorian roots. Hopefully this will change Swiss perceptions of Muslim immigrants.

After bans on minarets in 2009 and face veils in 2013, an Anti-Immigration Referendum was passed in February 2014 demanding a quota for immigration be set. Currently, 22.3% of Swiss people are of immigrant origins, and the success of the Swiss team, ranked sixth in the world, is attributable to the influx of players from Albania.

Muslim Stars

Here are some of the Swiss Muslim stars.

Xherdan Shaqiri: Born in Yugoslavia of Albanian parents, he plays as a midfielder for Bayern Munich. He was named man of the match in Switzerland’s World Cup opening match in Brazil against Ecuador.

Admir Mehmedi: Born in Macedonia, he plays as a striker for SC Freiburg.

Haris Seferović: Of Bosnia-Herzegovinian heritage, he plays as a striker for Real Sociedad. In the Swiss team’s first match of the World Cup, against Ecuador, he came on as a substitute for the last 15 minutes and scored the winner in the third minute of stoppage time.

Gokhan Inler is of Turkish heritage, he plays as a midfielder for Napoli. He has 74 international caps and has scored six goals for the national team of which he is the captain

Valon Behrami: Born in Kosovo, he plays as a midfielder for Napoli. This was his third World Cup.

Blerim Dzemaili: Born in the former Yugoslavia, he plays as a midfielder for Napoli.

Perhaps the most inspiring example is Philippe Senderos. He may be familiar as a defender in the English Premier league with Arsenal, Everton, Fulham and now Aston Villa. He is a child of immigrants, a Serbian mother and a Spanish father.

In 2009, he married Sara, an Iranian, and embraced Islam in 2012, making the ‘Shahada’ (expression of faith) at an Islamic centre in Manchester.

Bacary Sagna, of Senegalese origin, Arsenal and France

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