Fast Food


I’ve come to a decision. I don’t think I’ll become a muslim.

It’s not that I have anything against Islam, certainly no more (or less) than I have against any religion. Everyone has to believe in something, whether it’s God, Allah, Charlton winning the league or a lottery win. Personally I don’t think going to church is the way forward, but I maybe wrong. If you took away religion, money, Owen Wilson, guns, George Osborne and Carlsberg Special Brew I reckon we could pretty much eradicate violence in society once and for all, but that’s just one man’s opinion.

If I did become a muslim I’m bound to forget to pray 5 times a day, unless I organised myself to get out the prayer mat every third time I took a book to the loo, but I fear people would get bored of stepping over me, down on my knees as I bowed my head to Allah, the only God, in the toilets down at my local pub. Anyway, I think Mecca is in the direction of those machines on the wall, which would look very odd indeed if I was caught praying to them.

One upside would be I wouldn’t have to shave, letting the old salt ‘n’ pepper whiskers go all Cat Stevens on me, and I also quite fancy myself in a dishdasha – one of those full-length garments which middle eastern guys wear. I’d be able to strut around like Peter O’Toole and the loose fitting robe would cover up my ever-growing midriff – these trousers are cutting me in half.

But the reason I know I could never convert to Islam is that I get hungry. And thirsty. All the time. This of course wouldn’t be a problem for most of the year, but during Ramadan I’d struggle. Through a normal working day (more of that later) I’ll happily graze constantly on whatever comes to mouth, stuffing my little fat chops with sweeties, crisps, sandwiches, biscuits etc, punctuated by cups of tea, coffee, premium lager – that sort of thing.

But if I took up the Islamic faith I’d have to deal with fasting. Every ninth month of their calender I’d have to abstain from eating, drinking and sexual relations from dawn until sunset. Now obviously there are some things you don’t mind giving up for a good cause but eating and drinking aren’t two of them. If I was to sit at home all day (as has been my wont recently) not being able to eat or drink, never mind not have sexual relations (does that include with oneself ? hope not) I’d not only feel faint, but I’d go a funny shape. A day at work, with all the distractions of coffee bars, canteens, Pret A Mangers and suchlike, would be unbearable if a nil-by-mouth regime was to be followed.

You don’t burn (or at least I don’t burn) many calories while sitting at a desk or using a computer, but it’d take a monumental effort to survive all day without so much as a Dunkin Donut to keep my strength up. Imagine what it would be like working on a building site or a fireman or some other profession which required physical labour, some exertion from which a sweat was raised.

Take the Pakistan cricket team, for example. They’re playing England at the moment in a Test Series which involves them batting, running, throwing and catching (sometimes) for up to seven hours a day for five straight days presumably without so much as a sip of Lucozade Sport to keep their strength up. In these modern times of professional sport there is always a get-out, of course. The Pakistan team manager Yawar Saeed said. “”A player’s decision to fast is between himself and God. We don’t get involved in this matter. We don’t mix sport and religion. It is up to the individual concerned.” Given how devout the faithful can be, there would doubtless be a lot of soul-searching in the dressing room before the opening bowler allows himself to tuck into a Big Mac and Coke to keep up his blood sugar levels.

But at least their management seem to be taking the sensible position. You can’t have a player keeling over at short square leg at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, just because he hasn’t had anything since that bowl of Cheerios at 5.30 this morning. I know I’d be having dizzy spells by 11am if I observed the fast. And that’s another thing I wouldn’t be if I did: Fast. Old ladies would be able to bowl faster than me if I couldn’t eat constantly throughout the day.

In Soccerland a couple of weeks ago Ali Karimi, an Iranian footballer known as the “Maradona of Asia”, was fired by his club for failing to fast. On it’s website Tehran-based Steel Azin FC claims Karimi, once the Asian Player of the Year, “insulted officials of the [Iranian] football federation and the Tehran team’s supervisor who confronted him on the issue”. Well I’ve never been named Asian Player of the Year, or even Ageing Player of the Year (though as a schoolboy goalie I used to be known as “The Gary Sprake of Barnehurst”), but I suspect poor old Karimi would have to take lesson’s from my delivery of an insult should anyone in my dressing room attempt to deprive me of my isotonic pork pie at half time.

I managed to pick up 4 days work this week at The It Is Are You On Sunday and jolly good it was too, especially as there were numerous tvs dotted around the office on which to enjoy the cricket during the very rare occasion I found myself with nothing to do. As I trawled my way through both the very decent workload and the myriad of eating establishments dotted along High Street Kensington I watched my current sporting heroes make Keema out of the Pakistan bowling attack I allowed myself to dream of making a lot of runs and taking a karahi full of wickets this weekend. Little did I know that at that very moment the opposition were crying off, having lost several players to the start of the soccer season and to Bank Holiday domestic duties.

The crossover end of the season is always a bugger, as rugby and soccer-playing cricketers feel the need to pack away their bats and boxes, strap on the shinpads or insert the gumshields. It’s a bugger but at least it’ll give my achilles ankle and my achilles knee further time to recover from the last match, and next time I’m called upon to perform I shall be injury free, a spring in my step and a Ginsters cornish pasty in my pocket. Insha’Allah.

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