"Ramadan means a month of blessing, cleaning yourself spiritually and understanding sacrifice."

The words from Wolves winger Adama Traore as he describes what the Islamic month of Ramadan means to him as Muslims around the world begin their holy month of fasting, charity and spirituality.

Traore, who was brought up in a Muslim household, has fond memories of fasting and learning more about his religion from his family - but also his mother's food.

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Traore exclusively told Sky Sports News: "Ramadan means a month of blessing, cleaning yourself spiritually and understanding sacrifice. It is a blessed month.

"I remember Ramadan (as a child) nicely, I remember my mum used to cook the best food for us and after it finished I'd go to the mosque with my father.

"It's just the togetherness, if you're in a Muslim community and you get together - it's a nice feeling you know.

"It was one of the best times, also to understand spiritually. My mum used to give money, milk or food to people who didn't have any and you understand more when you fast, people who don't have those things, it helped teach me how blessed I am."

For all Muslims, whether you are an athlete or not, the common question can be: how do you pass the time when you cannot eat or drink between sunrise and sunset? Is it easier to do nothing and save your energy or is it better to keep busy?

For Traore there is only one answer.

"It's better to do things during Ramadan, when you're active, the time passes more quickly," he said.

"Sometimes we used to think time moves if you don't do anything but you have to be busy.

"That happened to me a lot because I used to play a lot of football during Ramadan and most of the time my mum used to call me, 'You have to come back to eat!'

"When I came back home I tried to eat everything and my mum used to tell me, 'Stop it, you need to drink tea, eat slowly'."

Ramadan and football

For Muslim athletes, Ramadan is a unique time spiritually and of course physically, while they fast.

Former Arsenal defender Kolo Toure and England cricketer Moeen Ali have spoken in the past regarding training and playing their respective sports while fasting - and many agree on one aspect, they feel a sense of drive to show people despite fasting, they can still compete and perform at the highest level . So does Traore agree?

"Absolutely, I think the same," the 27-year-old said.

"It's a strange feeling. I remember the time I've been most fit in pre-season, was during Ramadan because of that focus, that tunnel vision is on all the time.

"You know you have to eat when you have to eat, you have be switched on. People offer you drinks and food and they don't know you're fasting and you explain and that keeps you switched on, that focus helps you on the pitch.

"I speak with my diet guy who controls my food. I speak to him about the best advice to follow when I have to eat in the night."He tells me how many drinks and foods I need to eat to give me energy throughout the day - it's important for trying to get the best performance on the pitch."

Wolves are one of the Premier League clubs who have signed up to the Muslim Athletes Charter by Nujum Sports, which includes committing to having a prayer room and halal food options at the training ground. For the players, this is clearly appreciated.

At Wolves, they have Muslim players from the academy to the first team, including Boubacar Traore and Rayan Ait-Nouri, and the sense of community and inclusion in the changing room whether Muslim or not, encourages talk around faith.

"It's also nice to have conversations with people who don't do Ramadan, to explain different points of view," Traore explained.

"We have different players like Boubacar Traore, Rayan Ait-Nouri who all come from different places so it's nice to speak to them too. We all explain how they've done Ramadan and exchange experiences."

2023-03-23T07:21:40Z dg43tfdfdgfd