We must embrace religion, says Newcastle boss Pardew as he considers introducing prayer room
Newcastle are ready to unleash the power of prayer on the Premier League, with plans for a dedicated religious room for three key players who have lit up their season. Papiss Cisse, Demba Ba and Hatem Ben Arfa are devout Muslims and they could play a key role on Sunday when Newcastle host Manchester City with the dreams of both clubs in the balance. United want to secure a berth in Europe and City want to clinch their first title since 1968. Manager Alan Pardew believes the beliefs of his top stars have been a major contribution to the team’s success, so much so that he has explored the possibility of creating prayer rooms at the training ground and St James’ Park.
‘It’s something I’ve discussed with club secretary Lee Charnley as I think it’s important,’ he said. ‘We look after the players and their religious backgrounds. ‘Even at the stadium, it’s not an ideal situation. It’s something we’re looking at. Religion plays an important role for some of our players.
‘You have to respect that some players have a different religion to most of the footballers in this country. We need different facilities for them. It’s important that whatever the religion, we take care of it and understand it.’
Devout Muslims: Senegalese pair Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba are religious
Dedicated prayer rooms are not new in English football although they are few and far between, and the Premier League’s first multi-faith prayer room inside a stadium was unveiled only four years ago at Blackburn. That was as much in response to the multicultural make-up of the local population as to the demand from players.
Changes: Alan Pardew has discussed the idea of introducing a prayer room at Newcastle’s training ground
Bolton also have a prayer room, as do Manchester City who have four practising Muslims in their first-team squad — Yaya and Kolo Toure, Edin Dzeko and Samir Nasri.
Other Premier League stars sharing their faith include Ali Al-Habsi of Wigan, Arsenal’s Marouane Chamakh, Salomon Kalou of Chelsea and Stoke’s Mamady Sidibe, while others have Muslim family members. Arsenal’s Robin van Persie, for example, is married to a Muslim of Moroccan heritage, Bouchra Elbali.
But all eyes will be on Newcastle scoring sensation Cisse today, especially after the Senegal striker took his tally to 13 goals in 12 games with what has been acclaimed as the goal of the season against Chelsea last Wednesday.
Pardew’s pastoral care for the players, who make up the top flight’s surprise package, is evident. Cisse is still learning English, but it’s improving. ‘I’m having the odd conversation with him now — he’s getting there,’ said Pardew.
Yaya Toure of the Manchester City: I don’t drink because I am a Muslim.