Top Muslim Soccer Players

Perhaps the most famous Muslim footballer in the world right now is from Egypt and his name is Mo Salah. In fact, Salah is playing so well these days that is now talked about as reaching Messi and Ronaldo standards of play and goal scoring ability. It’s also interesting to see fans in England chant and cheer Mo Salah’s name. They don’t care if he’s Muslim. They will put a statue of Mo Salah out in front of Liverpool stadium if he keeps scoring goals for the club. Here, Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah races toward the Southampton goal and bends a perfect shot into the goal to make it 2-1.

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I thought it would be interesting to take a look at some of the top soccer players who are Muslim. One player, Zidane, is now retired of course, but with players like Mido, Ribery, Pogba, Toure and Kanoute on the list, you can see what class there is amongst players who practice the Islamic faith.

Particularly interesting is Ramadon, and how these players get through that period when they are fasting and only eating a big meal late at night.  I came across an interesting piece about this in the NY Times, referencing an old NBA player who grew up playing goalie, Hakeem Olajuwon.  Who actually played with more energy and focus during Ramadon.

“When your stomach is full, you get tired and lazy and too relaxed,” said Olajuwon, who retired from the Houston Rockets in 2002. “You get tremendous energy from fasting. Everything is crisp. When your stomach is empty, you get a lot of oxygen and you can breathe.”

It is a unique form of energy that he has never gotten any other way, Olajuwon said, speaking in a telephone interview from Amman, Jordan, where he spends much of the year learning Arabic. Olajuwon said his statistics always jumped when he was fasting. He remembers scoring at least 8 more points each game.

Short list of muslim professional soccer players:

  • Mesut Ozil
  • Hasan Sas
  • Zidane
  • Ribery
  • Kanoute
  • Diarra
  • Mido
  • Mohamed Salah
  • Ümit Karan
  • Nihat Kahveci
  • Yıldıray Baştürk
  • Altıntop Brothers
  • Tuncay Sanlı
  • Arda
  • Nicolas Anelka
  • Paul Pogba
  • Yaya Toure

I took a cab the other night and the cab driver was from Iran. He talked about how he rests when he goes home. Over here, in the US, it’s all work and then have a heart attack. I asked him if it was easy to travel back and forth. He said he had no problems even though both passports, the US and Iranian passport are troublesome at times. Too bad it can’t be easier to travel to and from more Muslim countries. And all the hard work in the US is done by immigrants.

Why do I bring this up? I have some of the best conversations with cab drivers, and most if not all are huge soccer/football fans. It’s always a great geography and cultural education. It’s not always all about the United States.

Mo Salah and James Milner speak to BT Sport reporter Des Kelly following the Champions League quarter-final between Liverpool and Man City.

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