If there’s one player who has shown outstanding physical strength over the past couple of weeks, then it’s our midfield powerhouse Ayoub Assal.
But what makes his mighty performances even more amazing is the fact he has been fasting ever since April 12.
Ayoub’s faith in Islam means he must abstain from all food and drink between dawn and dusk for 30 days. But you’d certainly never know that judging from his all-action displays.
“The first game was Ipswich at home,” recalled the 19 year old. “This is the time of year when we observe Ramadan, so I can’t eat from dawn until the sun goes down. I’ve had to change a bit of my programme in terms of when I eat and the fluids I get into my body before a game. It’s been a bit different, but I feel that I’ve adjusted well, and I only have a couple more weeks left.”
Ayoub certainly isn’t alone and he’s found inspiration from high-profile stars like Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, and Riyad Mahrez, who have been winning Premier League and Champions League honours while fasting.
“When you see players at the top level doing it, and still performing at their best, then that gives you the push to do it as well. It gives you inspiration.”
Ayoub’s incredible strength and determination were particularly prominent on Tuesday against Rochdale when he simply refused to surrender the ball, powered forward and then fired over a thunderous cross for Jack Rudoni to head home.
But he’s had to make adjustments to carry on producing such powerful performances.
“I have kept to a schedule of training in the morning, but what I will normally do is go back home and have a nap, so my sleeping times have changed,” he explained.
“The day before a game I will have a lot of carbohydrates and get my fluids on board, so the energy levels are still there. I try to get the right food and fluids into me when I break the fast. I have a nap before the game, so that I feel good and ready to go.”
In fact, Ayoub’s fasting has even meant backroom staff quickly getting fluids and food into him when the sun goes down during a game.
“Chris McConnell has been very helpful, in providing the right fluids and nutrition for when it’s time to break my fast,” he continued. “That helps a lot and it shows that they are thinking about me. I really appreciate the help. In my years coming through the academy I was fasting then. Once you get used to it the process is easier.”
Our first-team coach Rob Tuvey added: “It’s a credit to the work that Chris and physio Tim Maynard are doing by managing Ayoub’s work load and nutrition. They have been first class with it. As soon as his time was up for fasting the other night against Rochdale we were able to get some food and drinks onto him.
“We are really careful with the way we are managing him at the moment, but all the credit goes to the management and sports science team because they’ve worked hard to make sure Ayoub’s schedule is where it needs to be and we are seeing that with his performances at the moment.
“It speaks volumes for Ayoub as an individual that he can still do it on the pitch. He keeps it private to himself, and that shows his character because he didn’t actually remind me this year! He just goes about his business, he doesn’t like fuss. You probably see that in the interviews, he’s very mellow, and a very private young man, but we know his energy levels are really key to his performance levels as well. You can see with the way he looks after himself that it hasn’t affected his game at all. We are really pleased with him.”