Football & Faith: Being Muslim in MLS


[Applause] one of the things that I love the most in this after games when we do win and we have a chance to look into the stands the 32:52 when I see moms dads brothers sisters boys girls different banners I think that’s pretty pretty important [Music] a story begins on another sunny day in Los Angeles a cosmopolitan city where freeways converge to create a mosaic of cultures I think first and foremost we wanted to be connected to the city of Los Angeles and as everyone knows Los Angeles is diverse we wanted to make sure that we were inclusive in all ways that we connected with people from different parts of the world that live in Los Angeles that love football that enjoyed coming to Bank in California and we’re ready to stand beside a club [Music] home to over 500,000 Muslims I’ve come during the holy month of Ramadan to see how for members of La FC balance their faith in football so we’ve got three players and a staff member that are fasting during this Ramadan period throughout the month of Ramadan the players and staff observing abstain from food and water from sunup to sundown it’s meant to think when you boil at three o’clock you hungry or after practice we have a lunch in front of you with us not yet oh yeah eight o’clock you just you know water Nam hey the club you’ve got to see it as you’re putting your body under an excessive amount of physical stress by really changing your routines other guys sleeping enough because we know the value of sleep when it comes to recovery your hydration is going to also be affected quite dramatically as well and all of that combined just puts you under more physical and then mental stress for the players and coaches observing Ramadan the club here is taking special considerations to support from Sports Science meal planning and hydration as a team effort to make sure the squad is at its best [Music] when you go through Ramadan attention has to be focused on a player and where he is every day for us it’s a month period we play five games in that month three of those are away two are at home we have somewhere in the region of about 16 training sessions so it’s a long period we use something called heart rate variability it’s a measure of the variance in between each of your heart beats you think it’s like a metronome click click click and that’s actually not true there’s micro variations in your heartbeat and so we’re able to measure that and then from that have a look and see how is the mental stress affecting the player can these guys perform at their optimal level despite fasting during Ramadan I think a lot of people are gonna say 100% they can’t but we also know that there’s a mental aspect to this as well and there’s a full power to it out of people survive in remote places stranded helicopter crash or an airplane crash and people are surviving for days if not weeks and ridiculous extreme conditions there’s something of hope that these guys are holding on to and our athletes as well there’s a strong mental aspect to it and we’re here to support them if we were gonna really represent the fan base in Los Angeles we also knew that our club needed to represent different parts of the world the fact that they come from different places different experiences I think that goes a long way towards building a successful team when I left Colombia first time 2011 I had many issues with the coaches they don’t understand but with Bob he really have experience because you know he was in Egypt with the national team and he really work with the urban mentality [Music] every year I’d be honest I’m winning for this month every this month you just not about the food the food is just one part so we can feel the poor people how they feel if you ask me four o’clock four o’clock and nothing healthy 30 and hungry you would not want to talk about people in Africa with me but here is how he does it have food or water you know how in defeat I only have a chance to help people like that just do it do it so if you can do it the whole month then you can just continue with your normal days like until the next what a model if you’re still alive what has become known as the Arab Spring began with a series of protests in Tunisia eventually sparking a wave of uprisings toppling the autocratic regimes in Tunisia Libya Yemen Egypt and Beyond in Egypt many of the Egyptian Premier League supporters groups played an important role in this organized resistance where after over 30 years of dictatorship Hosni Mubarak was forced out on September 14th 2011 amidst the civil unrest former US Men’s National Team coach Bob Bradley was introduced as manager of the Egyptian national team nearly 5 months later was the massacre at the Egyptian Premier League match between mastery an ally at the stadium of portside we hear the city misses 22 died in poor sight and myself and Bob and leans in the back of the car a driver and every life ten minutes 35 40 45 in news was shocked winter hotel was 70 to Sydney to die for again we knew that the match between ollie and mastery would be a heated one but nobody expected anything like the massacre that took place we went back to the apartment we tried to follow the news we got updates and then the next day my wife Lindsay and Zaki and I marched in Sphinx square which I wrote in the morning and I tell him do you have this new test now is squared and bubbly sit down no tell him and it’s Lindsey let’s go it’s about said let’s go I was worrying about because this revolution these days and you never know any square five ten thousand he can walk it’s just all lots of evil just go we got a support this minute I got asked regularly after Port Sayid why I would stay I didn’t understand the question at first but it was odd to me to think that you would accept a challenge and get to know a bunch of guys and and really respect what they were all about and then when things started to go a little bit wrong that you would leave a lot of Americans don’t have a lot of experience or interaction with Islam of that faith what did you find I found them great people people that welcomed us and there was never any friction there’s good people that love their country trying to figure out every day how to take care of their families Egyptians are proud people they’re proud of their country they’re proud of their culture they’re proud of their football and to be part of that for my wife and I was really special coming in 93 going immigration see President Clinton big picture and say wow it’s a most powerful man you Nord and 1215 years of the coachee national team met him I came here nothing zero no English nothing just a moment always feeling so proud to myself I met Bob I sat down with him in the morning is just that five minutes and I couldn’t my agent an agent is just like this time you want me to get x equals more money on of SEO I don’t care I want to work with Bob when you question a team you make every single one work in the club he feels that his team that’s good to challenge everybody do the best Mohammed was talking to us today about his experience growing up in Libya and how he left every morning would talk he’s that family there she’s like this people here and Bieber identify to each other and Muhammad house in the middle the bomb been shot is this hard time for him tell IFC the best team in Major League Soccer this season [Applause] sensation stop I played football in street until I have 16 years section the way how things going in Africa is not the same like here when you see how that had been taking care of the kids you know clothes you know boots and these things we don’t have that thing so one team would be wearing his shirt and the other team would be naked from out it’s been over eight years since the Libyan Revolution began in response to 42 years of Muammar Gaddafi’s authoritarian regime today Libyans continue to suffer from political repression and civil war holding on still to the dreams of a liberated democratic state where were you when the Revolution began I wasn’t Olivia that time that was my first season my first six months playing with the first team a funny hat my club I lost a lot of friends a lot of Allah I lost a lot of you know family members and that eight months when the revolution start will be like sitting like this under like wall on the street or something and you just hate the bullets in the wall you know you don’t know who we don’t see we don’t hear them when they’ve been shot but you just hear them on the wall it’s not even like in the movie like as much as you try to explain to people you can clearly give them the full picture and then in Ramadan was in September I remember I just decide that I’m gonna leave because I have nothing more in it I think I’m just gonna waste my life here if I’m gonna stay so I just I’m gonna give it shot go and we just left Tunisia on Serbia that’s how we get out from there every day on the news I see people trying to leave and many go to Europe it’s been a big crisis what my family has been going through until now my friends my the people that I know from Libya I’m out of Libya now but imagine people suffering this for the last eight nine years many people trying to go out to Tunis Egypt or even outside in Europe if they have money but how about the people who doesn’t have money how they gonna do especially now when I’m done imagine like these people they really suffer a lot of things what’s your name both of you aqui aqui yeah Mohammad like me my name is Mohammad oles yeah is he dead yeah you should come through watch you guys and then you can decide yeah you have to go are you guys fasting not today okay I’m from Libya do you know where is it yeah it’s following Africa so oh that’s cool slice you’re welcome I went to the Islamic Center downtown Los Angeles and I posted about it on Instagram and you were like yo that’s my mosque that’s where I go to pray that’s where I grew up I was like okay yeah I did no idea it’s just a really cool environment there’s you know the bookstore there’s the youth group there’s qur’anic study things for me it was just like a hub for community you know like I remember going there and I would go play soccer in the back or play basketball in the back because they had you know hoop and they having some small goals to have a stadium in downtown LA that’s dedicated to soccer it’s something that I’ve dreamed about for soccer culture in the u.s. to see that happen is amazing [Music] [Music] Superman don’t climb on the travel ban bidding at weight sister Taliban I’m like looking for the Taliban from the establishment it was a really interesting experience growing up you know kind of as a first generation American in LA because it’s obviously really diverse my mother is from Tanzania she’s Indian with Tanzanian roots and my father is Syrian French I grew up also in 9/11 happened and that was really tough because that was the first time I ever really even questioned my identity you know I always thought I was American and I went to a private in elementary school in Pasadena our school was closed down for couple weeks because there was bomb threats after 9/11 as if we were the ones responsible for that happening it hurts because you know as a kid I didn’t quite understand that I think I was seven or eight but you kind of question like why is happening [Music] it wasn’t a great time for Muslims in the media you know like everything documented us in a really negative light tailored heritage started off as a passion project was myself to my best friend Sarah Milton and we started really just kind of documenting ourselves because we didn’t really see positive images of people who look like us funny enough we all connected actually through soccer tell me about this trip to Egypt why did you go and and what was that like Ramadan was just anything while they woke up was starting so instead of going to rush everyone’s actually to Egypt hey everyone my name is omar Issa and recently I took a trip to Egypt for a few weeks Egypt is a place I’ve wanted to visit for so long it’s known in Arabic as oom and dunya which means mother of the world and I thought it would be an amazing opportunity to spend some time this summer exploring the land of our ancestors because more so because of the story you know like Mohamed Salah being kind of this last-second hero to help Egypt qualify for the World Cup it was the first time Egypt qualified and I think three decades and we wanted to go document that and see what it was like to be you know with the people that are so proud of their country do you think that soccer in some ways can challenge society more broadly to create a deeper understanding of other people and whatever from the fact that there’s still so many incidents of racism around football in the world shows that there’s a lot of work to be done but in the best circumstances football changes and the best circumstances there is an understanding between different religions there is an understanding between people of different backgrounds the experiences you have when you work with players from different parts of the world those experiences stay with you you have a country and everybody’s divided and somehow the team can be an example of what it means to be United that’s a good messenger every day we believed in that in Egypt and I think a lot of that carries through as we try to there are no way of CFC it is like lucky people to hear it Campanian loves it they loved he’s a good guy oh he’s I’m with him you imagine a Bob Bradley brings on the multi innovate that’s a start of the second half second law service back in Sanford the Athena deal they can do a lot for Asia for sure for sure [Music] it’s the first time that we can actually see our here like these guys playing soccer actually giving like a duo or saying like you know thank you God in the way that we do it to see Mohamed Salah for example in Egypt do the sujood which is like the bowing down to God when he celebrates when he scores that’s something that I never saw going up you know to see a diamante do it when he scores it’s amazing we absolutely need these types of role models American Muslims come in every shape size color background we have to be on the ground in our communities working toward making a difference and putting it into the world in a way that other people can see do you think soccer can play a role in that heck yeah okay you saw it happen when the kids walk past Mohammed downstairs in the Fair Hall it’s a powerful sport that communicates to people all around the world no matter what language you speak or what religion you might practice just humanize humanize the American Muslim experience humanize us as neighbors as Americans this is really what we’re working toward every single day [Music] as the Sun begins to set on our soccer infancy and our stadiums become increasingly a bigger part of the fabrics of our broader cultural lives so too is the need for deeper understanding people tend to look at the exceptional nature of athletes as well exceptions to compartmentalize their beliefs about the player from their beliefs about Islam in their daily lives well in a city known for its stories la may be the perfect place to flip the script not just on our beliefs on football but faith and the Muslim is monolith under the bright lights [Music] you you

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