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Mahamadou Diawara Leaves French Youth National Team Over Anti-Ramadan Rules

Lyon's French midfielder #34 Mahamadou Diawara (C) leads the ball during the French L1 football match between Olympique Lyonnais (OL) and FC Lorient (FCL) at The Groupama Stadium in Decines-Charpieu, central-eastern France on October 8, 2023. (Photo by JEFF PACHOUD / AFP) (Photo by JEFF PACHOUD/AFP via Getty Images)
Jeff Pachoud/Getty Images

Lyon midfielder Mahamadou Diawara left the French U19 team and returned to his club on Thursday because of the French federation's new rule banning Muslim players from fasting during the holy month of Ramadan, per a report from ESPN. Diawara had featured regularly for the French as they tried to qualify for this summer's U19 Euros, though he left before his team's 2-0 win against Belgium on Wednesday.

This is the first international break in which French players observing Ramadan, from the U16s through to the senior team, will be subject to new anti-fasting rules from the FFF. French paper Le Figaro interviewed federation president Philippe Diallo on Wednesday, and Diallo tried to defend the rule on the grounds that it upholds a "principle of neutrality" and "ensures that religion does not interfere with an athlete." What does that mean in practice? Muslim players are banned from fasting, and in a confusing bit of syntax from ESPN, "will have to make up for the fasting days they miss."

This is the most institutionalized fasting ban the FFF has put in place at the international level, though it's not the first time the federation has targeted France's Muslim players. Last year, the FFF enacted a new rule banning match breaks for players to break their fasts at sunset. When a less strict version of the new rule was floated last year, French youth teams reportedly threatened to go on strike. One of the players involved in that labor action, Amine Gouiri, ditched the FFF to represent Morocco at the international level.

"Some players are not happy with this decision," an agent representing a handful of French players told ESPN. "They believe that their religion is not respected and that they are not respected either. Some don't want to cause a fuss but Mahamadou was not happy with it so he left."

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