Samy Sayed Morsy is a defensive midfielder for EFL League One club Ipswich Town, where he is also club captain and the Egypt National team. We caught up with Sam to discuss the importance of his faith and how he copes with the month of Ramadan during the season.
How important is your faith to you?
First and foremost, it is a moral accomplishment for how you want to act and how you want to behave. Football can be a high-level stress environment which brings its own pressures, such as to play and perform well. My faith gives me balance. I see a lot of times, especially with young players where you end up over consuming yourself and fear pops in. Faith gives you a way out of that in terms of seeing the bigger picture. Yes, football is important but in the grand scale of things, there are a lot more important things and having faith keeps you measured, down to earth, and your feet on the ground.
Have you turned to your faith/beliefs in a particularly difficult time in your career?
Many times, to be honest. Both, personally and professionally with family, kids and different parts of my career. Your faith is always there. Probably more so personally. I think professionally with the right guidance and trying to be a good Muslim, good things will happen for you.
What is your earliest memory of Ramadan growing up?
Probably when I was a kid. My dad would take us to the Mosque on Fridays for prayers and just seeing as a child your dad fasting, the discipline, breaking fast and eating together, doing Suhoor and seeing the whole community coming together. It’s a beautiful thing really to see people come together to better themselves. That is what Ramadan is there for, to bring us closer to the creator and help us be better people. It’s an amazing month and one I look forward to every year.
What would be the one thing you could tell non-Muslim fans to help them understand Ramadan and the religion a bit better?
Fasting has become a lot more popular and people are actually seeing the benefits of fasting, not just the physical but the mental clarity and putting things into perspective. When your fasting, your anger, your ego, all goes out the window as you are in submission. I encourage people to try really, and you will see for a lot of Muslims it’s the most peaceful month of the year. Ramadan is beautiful, it is challenging but it’s not there to overexert you and it something that you can do. Sometimes people look at it as a massive hurdle to do it, but if your intentions are clear, you can do it.
With Ramadan now falling during the season, how do you intend to manage your fasts around your training and games programme?
I’ve been lucky enough that my last few managers have been very accepting. We have a really good support team at Ipswich. Last year, the medical team were very forthcoming and wanting to see how they could help me and would go far and beyond to support. I’ve worked with different nutritionists over the years who have a really good understanding of what your body needs during the month. Sometimes you have the best intentions, but we are all human and may not be able to keep some fasts for whatever reason. That is ok, but just make sure you make up the missed fasts.
What advice would you give to young players who are preparing to train, play and fast this year?
It’s important to work with the support staff so you can perform to the level you need to be at and making it as easier as possible for yourself. I think it’s important when you’re playing football to maybe have an extended period without food and drinks to start building up. I wouldn’t recommend to going in straight away with the loads you have. Maybe with days off, start prolonging the fasts but definitely getting the nutritional advice so that you do not suffer too much. There are loads of good resources online, but it is important to speak to your club nutritionists. If there are young players who want to reach out to me to ask for advice I’m happy to share things. It is very important that everyone shares their experiences to make it easy as possible.
A common perception about Ramadan is that sports people could struggle to compete at the highest level, can you tell us what it’s like for you?
Obviously, it comes with its challenges no doubt, but we’ve seen that players continue to perform at the highest level. It’s about being strict, being disciplined with what you eat during the hours you can eat. It comes down to preparation. If you prepare for it and your methodical in your preparation, you take time beforehand and stick to the plan, you will be fine.
During 2018 World Cup in Russia, you observed Ramadan whilst on international duty with Egypt. What was that experience like?
It was amazing. We did Ramadan together. It was incredible really. The S&C coaches and nutritionist were being really inquisitive about Ramadan and felt the spirit of the brotherhood, with everyone fasting and praying together. The manager at the time, Hector Cuper, would fast with us which really brought us all together and something I will always remember fondly.
What are you trying to achieve this Ramadan?
Trying to be a better person and trying to improve in all areas. It’s a big month for reflection when you are fasting. When the stomach is empty, emotions can get high, and things can pop up sometimes out of your control. I make intentions at the start of Ramadan to be the best person I can throughout the month.
What do you eat for Iftar (breaking the fast)?
When I open the fast, I usually start with three dates, water and I usually have a fruit bowl prepared so I will have that straight away. I’ll then pray, and within the hour have my main meal, which is usually fish, chicken, rice potatoes, some vegetables. Not a crazy meal but just enough. The main thing is making sure I’m hydrating with electrolytes. I will already have prepared from the day before my drinks, salts, protein shakes, coconut water ready and always making sure my preparation is good so that I hydrate and replenish. But also, being mindful that I don’t eat too much as well. It’s a process. Usually just after eating a couple of dates you feel satisfied, so it is about slowing down, trusting the process and understanding that you are giving up your desires.
How do you celebrate Eid?
It depends where I am in the country and our games schedule. I will usually go to the Mosque for the Eid prayers and just spend the day with family and friends.