The Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which falls each year on different dates of the Western calendar, began on Aug. 21, just in time for another event in Europe with near religious significance: the kickoff of soccer season. But the timing has sparked controversy in Italy, where in the last four days both a prominent coach and a team owner in the top Serie A league have linked the rigors of Ramadan's sunrise-to-sunset fasting to Muslim players' poor performance on the pitch.
Just 30 minutes into his team's disappointing 1-1 tie Sunday with Bari, Inter Milan's Portuguese-born coach Jose Mourinho pulled midfielder Sulley Muntari, a practicing Muslim, out of his home debut. "He was clearly struggling," Mourinho said of the 25-year-old Ghanian player during the post-game press conference. "It's the month of Ramadan and that's what affected his performance, which is why I took him out."
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