Pakistan hockey coach, Dutchman Siegfried Aikman, joins players in Ramzan fasting | Hockey News

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NEW DELHI: Foreigners coaching sports teams in the subcontinent is not a new phenomenon. However, what Dutchman Siegfried Aikman is doing is perhaps something very new.
Aikman, acclimatising to his surroundings in his role as the coach of the Pakistan men’s hockey team, decided to join the players in something that is very significant to them.
It’s the month of Ramzan, leading up to Eid al-Fitr in less than 30 days. Amid the month-long day-time fasting, meals can only be had before and after sunset. Members of the Islamic community, including top-flight sportspersons, follow the Ramzan rituals, which could be a very difficult thing to do alongside training for high-performance sports.
Schedules can go for a toss, diet plans demand a break and training programs are required to be re-drawn.
It is Aikman’s first such experience. As the Pakistan players were allowed a break from the national camp to be with their families for the first day of Ramzan, Aikman made a decision: he started fasting as well.

“It was a thing I thought about because this is an opportunity to experience what the players experience,” said Aikman, talking to TimesofIndia.com from Pakistan.
While that decision of Aikman has warmed Pakistani hearts, it throws up a different set of challenges for him in his role as the team’s coach.
The Dutchman was re-working the training schedule to incorporate Ramzan-related requirements, when he took a break to answer TimesofIndia.com’s questions.
“Was planning the camp, how to make a schedule for the practice. I read a paper written by one of our FIH coaches about Ramzan and high-performance hockey, and he suggested that we should practice in the evening, so the players can have three meals in the night and sleep at daytime mainly,” said Aikman, who was the head coach of the Japan men’s team before accepting an offer from the Pakistan Hockey Federation late last year.
“I thought, well, let me experience what they experience because that’s the best way to understand what’s going on. That’s why I decided to try,” Aikman told TimesofIndia.com.

Aikman-embed

(Twitter Photo)
The Pakistan team is preparing for the very important Asia Cup scheduled to be held in Indonesia towards the end of May. A top-four position there will ensure qualification for the 2023 World Cup in India.
It’s Pakistan hockey’s immediate priority, after huge setbacks of missing out on Olympic qualification and slipping down to 18th in the International Hockey Federation (FIH) men’s team rankings.
Known to be very methodical in his approach, Aikman prepared earnestly for the fasting challenge as well.
“I got the Ramzan schedule…what is the latest time that you can eat in the morning and from when you can start having meals in the evening,” he said.
Breaking Ramzan fast in the evening is known as ‘Iftar‘.

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(Aikman with the Pakistan players – Photo: TOI arrangement)
On the first day of Ramzan, Aikman woke up at 3:30 a.m. and ate all he wanted to by 4:25 a.m., before going back to sleep.
“I try to sleep a little extra in the morning, so that the first (few) hours pass,” he said.
“During the day, I start counting the hours left to go (before he can eat again), because I get more and more hungry. I wasn’t thirsty,” the 62 year old said talking to TimesofIndia.com.
He broke his fast over the weekend watching India men take on England in the FIH Pro League.
“In the afternoon, I got a slight headache, which was maybe from dehydration or hunger, I don’t know. But it was not that I was really hungry…I took my real dinner at about 8 or 8:30 and watched the India vs England game at the time I was eating,” he shared further about his first fasting experience.

But to continue with that eating routine for a month is not something Aikman is sure about.
“It felt good. I have made the decision to continue fasting for about a week. Then I will have a better picture (if I can continue or not). I just want to see how it goes,” he said, before signing off saying, “It’s something I am doing from my heart.”





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