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High School Football And Ramadan

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High School Football And Ramadan


High School Football And Ramadan

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And now a story that comes from one of you. As part of our Friday Night Live series on high school football, weve been asking listeners to send in ideas. One of those ideas takes us to Lanham, Maryland, a suburb outside Washington, D.C. There, Muslim players must endure grueling practice schedules while fasting from dawn to sunset during the holy month of Ramadan, which ends this weekend.

NPRs Jamie Tarabay visited DuVal High School.

Unidentified Man: I want to do it loud on three

TEAM: What?

Unidentified Man: (Unintelligible) on three

TEAM: Okay.

Unidentified Man: I want to do it loud on three

TEAM: What?

Unidentified Man: One, two, three!

TEAM: Okay.

JAMIE TARABAY: Stopping for a break during practice, the DuVal Tigers hold their helmets high for a cheer. Then they all grab water bottles and start chugging - all of them except Tierno Diallo(ph), the 14-year-old cornerback. Hes one of a couple of Muslims on the team, but hes the only one whos fasting.

Mr. CHUCK POPE(ph) (Coach, DuVal Tigers Football): Two weeks ago was rough for him, real rough, because we was up in 85-degree weather.

TARABAY: Coach Chuck Pope says he keeps an eye on Diallo - who everyone calls Squirt. At 107 pounds and all of 5-foot-3, hes the smallest player on the team.

Mr. POPE: You can see the difference. Now, because hes coming toward the end of his fast, now hes more accustomed to it.

Unidentified Man #2: Ready? Go.

TARABAY: Two-a-days, the twice a day training sessions that mark the beginning of football season, coincided with the beginning of Ramadan. That was rough, Pope says.

Mr. POPE: You can see his skin is dry. But once again, hell just sit down, hell rest for about 15, 20 minutes and hell come right back, coach, Im ready to go.

TARABAY: Coming right back and going hard is what his Diallo wants his coach and teammates to see. Its tough enough being the smallest kid on the team, the last thing he wants is for anyone to think he cant cut it.

Mr. TIERNO DIALLO: No problem. It doesnt bother me at all.

Unidentified Man #3: Come on, yall, let them know who we are. Ten

TEAM: nine

Unidentified Man #3: eight

TEAM: seven

Unidentified Man #3: six

TEAM: five

TARABAY: Theres a lot of debate about Muslim athletes and fasting for Ramadan. On some Internet sites, high school football players exchange advice on whether to hide the fact theyre fasting from their coaches. But most advise them to be upfront about it. Many pro athletes dont fast, since anyone who travels is exempt, according to the Quran. So are children, the sick, elderly and pregnant women.

At 14 years of age, though, Diallo is expected to fast.

Mr. DIALLO: I had always wanted to play football, and my parents told me I had to fast this year because I was getting more mature.

TARABAY: So, his challenge was to try to do both. This is Diallos first year of football and his first year of fasting for the entire month. His teammates say they respect his sacrifice, a sacrifice they doubt they could make themselves.

Mr. JOSHUA JACK: With this training, I dont think I could do that. I cant without water if Im training like this. So, I dont think I can even do that.

TARABAY: Thats Joshua Jack, 15-year-old wide receiver and food lover. Helmet in one hand, he lists everything hed already eaten today: Honey Bunches of Oats, chips, a burrito for lunch, along with milk, juice and applesauce.

(Soundbite of footsteps)

TARABAY: At 5:30 p.m., Diallo still has hours to go. Walking to the classroom to go over plays for tomorrows game, Diallo has a bit of a swagger in his step. Hes almost there - Ramadan is almost over and he survived. Hes still fasting and hes still playing.

Jamie Tarabay, NPR News.

MONTAGNE: And our series on high school football continues later today with a story about another cultural connection - a Polynesian connection. The Haka, a Maori war dance is now part of the Friday night ritual at some schools.

Unidentified Man #4: (Foreign language spoken)

TEAM: (Foreign language spoken)

MONTAGNE: You can hear players embrace both football and their Polynesian heritage later today on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

(Soundbite of team chanting)

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