PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil (AP) — Algeria's players are being left to decide whether or not they observe the Ramadan fast during Monday's World Cup game against Germany, with coach Vahid Halilhodzic saying it's not a divisive issue.
Observant Muslims avoid food and liquids from dawn to dusk during Ramadan but can, and often do, skip it if travelling or doing hard physical labor. Some devout Muslim athletes choose to fast during training or competition, but it can create selection difficulties for the coaches in team sports.
Halilhodzic, who has testy relations with sections of the Algerian media and its football association, threatened to leave a news conference Sunday if questions persisted on the topic. He said critics were using the issue to "try and raise hatred of me and my family. This is really disgusting."
The national football association released a statement denying a report in Algeria's leading football newspaper suggesting that Halilhodzic, a Muslim, had ordered players not to fast. It's a potentially sensitive allegation in the mostly Muslim country.
The federation said Halilhodzic had been "very respectful" of the religion in his three years at the helm of the national team.
The veteran coach, a French-Bosnian, said fasting was a "private issue and players will do exactly as they wish."
"When you ask this question you lack respect and ethics. I would like this to stop. Stop this controversy. Talk about football," he said, in response to repeated questions at the official pre-match news conference. "And stop asking me about Ramadan, otherwise I will get up and leave."
The match Monday kicks less than an hour before sunset in the southern Brazilian city of Porto Alegre.