It was a fleeting pause, shorter than most stoppages for injuries or video reviews – comparable to the hydration breaks commonly instituted in hot weather conditions. But it meant the world to Mo Farsi and Steven Moreira.
When the ball slipped across the endline for a Real Salt Lake goal kick 18 minutes into the match at Lower.com Field last Saturday, referee Rubiel Vazquez gave an extra blow of his whistle and gestured to the sideline. While most of their Columbus Crew teammates and RSL counterparts swigged water, Farsi and Moreira consumed something more substantial, starting with a handful of dates, as recommended by the Prophet Muhammad himself.
The sun had set in central Ohio, and as practicing Muslims, the duo could finally break sawm, the daytime fast observed throughout the month of Ramadan, a time of prayer and reflection that ranks among the religion’s most revered traditions. While players around the world in such situations have grown accustomed to waiting until halftime for that sustenance, this year MLS and PRO (Professional Referee Organization) officials quietly made space for an in-game moment like this across the league.
“'OK, it’s happening for real,’” Farsi remembered thinking when discussing the topic with media on Thursday. “'They blew the whistle and stopped the game, and I’m eating right now. Everybody stopped to let me and Steven eat.’ It was very appreciated and very respectful, so I thank everyone for that.
“To see people making these initiatives to let us feel that we are at home and we are accepted, whatever religion, wherever you are from,” added the Canadian fullback of Algerian descent, “that’s beautiful.”
Up in the players’ suite, Kyla Cross, the Crew’s team nutritionist, was moved as she looked on. On the one hand, the personalized diet, rest and hydration plans she compiles for Moreira and Farsi aren’t dramatically different from what she provides to every other member of the roster.
Where most players find their game-time snacks in their lockers, it’s an easy customization for her to pack two shoe bags with pitted dates, sports gels, fruit gummies and bananas ready for quick deployment from the Crew bench.
Read Charles Boehm's full story at mlssoccer.com.