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Cardiff football coach is helping Muslims reconnect with sport while fasting

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With people across Wales getting back in the game as sports restrictions lift, a Welsh-Bangladeshi man from Cardiff is helping other Muslims reconnect with sport while fasting for Ramadan. 

Jalal Goni, 31, is the manager and founder of the Bengal Dragons Football Club and has been getting his players to build football back into their routine alongside commitments to avoid food and water during daylight hours.

While participating in physical activities and sports during Ramadan has continued for centuries, this year could feel harder for thousands of Muslims across Wales after a reduced amount of exercise during the pandemic. 

Our research suggests that more than half of adults in Wales miss the types of activity they were able to do before the pandemic began, while 60% of adults intend to increase the amount of physical activity and exercise they do as Wales comes out of lockdown.  

A footballer puts his arm around a fellow footballer while laughing.
Footballers enjoying the beauitful game.

 

With restrictions lifted to allow outdoor organised exercise and team sports again, and indoor group fitness classes and indoor sports for both adults and children resuming this week – two weeks earlier than expected, Jalal is eager is to get back in the game with his exercise regime.

Explaining his routine, Jalal said: “I find the best method to exercise effectively is to train just before sundown and the breaking of fast, that way I can use every last ounce of energy I have to do a short intense workout, knowing that I can then hydrate and eat straight after.

“With gyms re-opening and team sports able to take place again, I feel such a sense of relief and I’m fully embracing it. Seeing how much it means to the team to be back is incredible, we’re all full of enthusiasm to get back in the game.”

Footballer sitting on the grass in between games while smiling at the camera.
Footballer inbetween games.

 

As manager the Bengal Dragons, a football team made up of Welsh-Bangladeshi players, and a Project Worker for the Ethnic Youth Support Team, Jalal began an initiative a few years back for a series of midnight football events during the month of Ramadan. The events, organised alongside third sector organisations, encouraged players of all abilities from across South Wales to participate in midnight games of football during the fast break.

Due to the pandemic, this has not gone ahead for the last two years. Discussing not just the physical benefits it provided, but also the opportunity to connect with the Islamic community, Jalal said: “The midnight Ramadan football games have been really missed these last two years. Socialising with our community reminds us that we’re all in this together as one and it fills me with a lot of pride.”

Enthused by how the easing of restrictions will open up sport to more people, Sarah Powell, CEO of Sport Wales, said: “Throughout an incredibly testing period, the sporting family in Wales has shown great patience, acting both responsibly and creatively to help support healthy lifestyles during the pandemic.

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