Sonny Bill Williams celebrates his recent try against the Lions. Credit: Sky Sports.
A few weeks back we wrote a probably-bit-too enthusiastic profile of the only professional Muslim rugby player (that we know of), Sonny Bill Williams. The New Zealander’s faith had recently made headlines after he chose to cover a sponsor on his club’s shirt. It was for a bank that charged interest, which Williams felt went against Islam.
We’re back to writing about Williams because he recently spoke to the BBC about observing Ramadan as a pro rugby player. Now, as rugby involves extremely large men smashing into each other for 80 minutes, you’d be forgiven for thinking Williams delays his fast or gives to charity instead.
This is not the case. He just avoids the weight room until the sun sets. ‘I find the fasting easiest with footy-based training, and I just push back the weights until I break the fast. The first week of fasting is the toughest and then after that you start to get used to it.’
(FYI ‘footy’ is New Zealand-speak for rugby.)
Interestingly, Williams ability to balance the rigours of Rugby with fasting may be helped by New Zealand’s relatively short June days. As he told the BBC: ‘We’re lucky that we only fast for nine to 10 hours in this part of the world because of the daylight.’
Muslims in the southern hemisphere have it relatively easy compared to their northern counterparts, and if you want more info on the subject, why not head to our blog on Ramadan fasting hours around the globe?
Anyways, why are we telling you about this? Firstly, because we love informing you guys about sporting Muslims. Secondly, because Williams’ club, the Auckland Blues, recently played the British & Irish Lions.
For the uninitiated, the Lions are an all-star style team made up of the best players from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Every four years, a select Lions squad spends the summer touring either Australia, South Africa or New Zealand, where they play a series of matches against club teams and the host country’s national side.
Highlights of Williams’ performance against the Lions on 7 June.
This year, the Lions are in New Zealand. And earlier this month, they lost a close game to the Auckland Blues. Guess who scored a try for the Blues? Sonny Bill.
While it was a great win for the Blues, it also shows that fasting isn’t having any negative effects of Williams’ game. More importantly, many of his teammates feel his faith plays a significant role in his professionalism and discipline, both on and off the pitch, with one saying: ‘The way he stands up for his convictions and what he believes in, a lot of us could learn from that, and a lot of us feed off him.’
Another fellow Blue simply described Williams as ‘humble as hell and one of the bros.’ Is there a better compliment than that?
Keep an eye out for Sonny Bill over the next few weeks, when he’ll be playing for New Zealand against the Lions on 24 June, 1 July and 8 July.