FIFA set to publish World Cup travel guide to help Muslim fans in Russia

Ns News Online Desk: Ns News Online Desk: RIO DE JANEIRO: With seven majority-Muslim countries set to play in this summer’s World Cup, FIFA is considering producing a travel guide for Muslims supporting their teams in Russia that would detail locations of mosques, as well as halal restaurants, prayer times and other important information.
The opening game of the month-long tournament sees hosts Russia face Saudi Arabia. It will take place in Moscow on June 14, which is expected to be the first day of Eid Al-Fitr. Within 24 hours, Egypt, Morocco and Iran will all have played their opening group-stage matches, while Tunisia, Senegal and Nigeria play over the following days.
Fatma Samoura, the secretary-general of FIFA and a Senegalese Muslim, attended an Iftar meal in St. Petersburg last summer during the Confederations Cup as a guest of the Association of Muslim Businessmen in the Russian Federation (AMBRF). She exclusively told Arab News that football’s governing body is determined to ensure Muslims attending the showpiece will have all the information they need to enjoy the event while still respecting all aspects of their religion.
“My faith is part of my life so everybody who knows me knows that I am a Muslim and I live as such,” Samoura said.
“The World Cup this year will feature seven teams that will have a majority of Muslim players and most of the fans will be fasting during Ramadan, which ends just before the opening game. We at FIFA would like to make sure all Muslims, be they players, staff or fans, have all the information they need if they want to, for example, buy halal food or pray.”
Ahead of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the Federation of Muslim Associations in Brazil (FAMBRAS) produced a 28-page booklet entitled “Muslim Fan Guide — Salam Brazil.” Written entirely in English, it detailed prayer times and mosque locations in each of the country’s 12 host cities as well as general information about Islam in Brazil. Helpful phone numbers, including the Saudi Arabian Embassy, were also included.
It is an initiative that Samoura said could be replicated by FIFA this year. With Saudi Arabia having qualified for their first World Cup since 2006 and playing their opening match so close to the Holy Month, and six other Muslim-majority nations taking part, FIFA wants the players to be as well-informed as possible.
“It’s not the first time Saudi Arabia have played at a World Cup, but we would like to ensure the team is well-prepared, cared for and comfortable because it is taking place close to the Ramadan period,” said Samoura.
“We want them to be at ease and not face any issues because of their religion. It is very important to help the players and fans during this very special time, so we are hoping to guide them on how to get by in a non-Muslim country and make them feel comfortable when they are not inside the stadiums.”
According to the Central Muslim Spiritual Board of Russia, there are approximately 50,000 mosques across Russia catering for around 30 million Muslims. Kazan, which hosted four Confederations Cup matches and will host a further six World Cup matches this summer, including a quarterfinal, is the first majority-Muslim host city of a World Cup clash. Around 100,000 Muslim tourists are expected to visit Russia for the tournament, said AMBRF.
“I can assure you there will be no discrimination whatsoever and the assistance Muslims will receive will be as if they are at home,” said Samoura.
“This is something that is important for FIFA in order to make sure everyone is able to enjoy the World Cup.”

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