In a classic case of the Muslim world meshing with the western world, a suburban Detroit, Michigan high school football team has moved its preseason practices from the afternoon to the middle of the night to help its Muslim players during this holy month of Ramadan. Fordson High School in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn has shifted its practices to the never-before-used 11 PM to 4 AM time slot. But what might sound odd to the un-informed seems to make perfect sense in the Arab capital of America.
The head football coach at Fordson High is Fouad Zaban, a Muslim and a former Fordson player. He proposed this simple rescheduling of one week of August two-a-day practices to accommodate the fast and to beat the heat. We know how hot itâ€™s been this summer — itâ€™s not safe,â€ Zaban told the Associate Press. But making such an atypical switch was not a simple process. It involved getting the approval of school and district officials and local police. It meant winning the acceptance of players and parents. And it required appeasing the surrounding neighbors who would be fearful of added noise and light at night. But Zaban went on a letter-writing campaign explaining his rationale, and he subsequently won the hearts and minds of the populace. And Zabanâ€™s sales pitch has been for the players to be able to break their fast at Maghrib and attend the masjid, and for them to be able to grab a light meal after practice and then attend Fajr salat at the masjid. It was ultimately hard for the school not to appreciate a plan so admirable.
The fact that they take their football seriously at Fordson High didnâ€™t hurt Zabanâ€™s cause. Fordson only lost one game last season, and they have achieved a total of four state titles and three second-place finishes in their 82 year history. Such logistical issues have come up now because Ramadan had not previously touched the late summer since the early 1980â€™s. But back then there was not nearly the number of Muslims in Dearborn as there is now, with an estimated 95% of Fordson Highâ€™s student body being Muslim.
â€œIt feels really great,â€ Adnan Restum, a 17-year-old defensive tackle, told the Associate Press. Restum, who has been fasting since he was about 10, also added, â€œIf weâ€™re doing it during the day, we wouldnâ€™t have water and it would be really hot and everything.â€
Defensive tackle William Powell, one of the teamâ€™s few non-Muslims, initially thought the coach was â€œout of his mind,â€ but heâ€™s come around. In fact, heâ€™s even fasted.
â€œIâ€™m around â€˜em, so Iâ€™ve tried a couple times but itâ€™s hard,â€ the 17-year-old told the AP.
Rami Fakih is a wide receiver and defensive back on the team, but more famously he is the brother of the recently crowned Miss USA Rima Fakih. Heâ€™s had to adjust mentally to these different surroundings, in which he can actually give in to the temptation of getting a drink from the water fountain in between plays.
â€œOh yeah,â€ he told the AP. â€œThen I remembered, you know. I looked up. Thereâ€™s no sun. I can drink. I can eat.â€ The times they are a-changing!