Premier League 2022 – the highlights for Muslim players

BBC Sport’s Shamoon Hafez looks back on a dramatic Premier League season and the contributions of Muslim players during the campaign.

Another remarkable Premier League season ended in high drama as Manchester City hit back on the final day to clinch their fourth title in five years under Pep Guardiola.

They were pushed all the way by Jurgen Klopp’s relentless Liverpool side, but the Reds agonisingly missed out on the crown by a single point once more.

One Muslim player had a significant say in the destiny of the top-flight trophy and we take a look at others’ notable moments during the 2021-22 campaign.

Glorious Gundogan

City took home the big prize but had to do it the hard way and were given a big helping hand by midfielder Ilkay Gundogan.

The home side were 1-0 down at 68 minutes and Guardiola had one throw of the dice remaining, taking off Bernardo Silva and replacing him with Gundogan.

It got worse a minute later when they fell 2-0 behind, before launching an incredible comeback by scoring three goals in the space of five minutes.

Germany international Gundogan, who has Turkish parents, began the fightback with a header and Rodri equalised with a rasping drive from the edge of the area.

And with nine minutes remaining, former Borussia Dortmund player Gundogan converted at the back post from Kevin de Bruyne’s cross to spark pandemonium at Etihad Stadium.

It turned out to be an unforgettable week for Gundogan, having got married to fiancé Sara just four days earlier.

Super Salah

The Egyptian King, the goal machine.

For the third time in his Premier League career, Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah claimed the Golden Boot award after scoring 23 goals this season, though the prize was shared with Tottenham’s Son Heung-min.

How can anyone forget his hat-trick against Manchester United at Old Trafford? But it was one of the strikes against title rivals City at Anfield which was particularly scintillating.

There looked to be no danger when Salah collected the ball down the right and was surrounded by three players, but a deft turn allowed him to escape before drifting past another defender and poking a precise finish past Ederson into the far corner.

The home crowd erupted and the effort was rightly voted as BBC Match of the Day’s goal of the season.

Although he missed out on the league, Salah has already lifted the Carabao Cup and FA Cup so far and still has a Champions League final against Real Madrid to look forward to on Saturday.

Pogba’s prowess

The season started so well for Manchester United before turning into a nightmare.

United began the campaign at home against Leeds and thrashed their rivals 5-1, with Portuguese midfielder Bruno Fernandes scoring a hat-trick.

But the game was a personal triumph for France international Pogba, who joined an illustrious list of seven players – including Harry Kane, Dennis Bergkamp and Cesc Fabregas – to provide four assists in a game.

Loss of form and injury meant Pogba tailed off and the ex-Juventus midfielder may have played his last game in a red shirt as his contract at the club expires in the summer.

Radiating in Ramadan

It was another campaign where wider awareness was raised about Ramadan and players competing while fasting.

One of the individual performances of the season was displayed by Leicester defender Wesley Fofana, who had been out for a long period following a horrific broken leg.

The 21-year-old Frenchman made his first start on his return against Manchester United at Old Trafford in April and managed to shackle the likes of Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes and Jadon Sancho as the Foxes earned a credible draw.

Boss Brendan Rodgers revealed afterwards: “Wesley is a young player in the middle of Ramadan, so he has not been eating during the day.

“I have worked with lots of players with devotion to their faiths and for a lot of the guys it gives them strength.

‘He’s finding an incredible strength to play continuously and train during Ramadan. He is a special talent and a big player for us.”

Evening Premier League matches including Burnley v Southampton, Burnley v Everton and Crystal Palace v Arsenal were briefly paused by the referee to allow Muslim players to break their fast.

Meanwhile, the rigours of the holy month were of no concern to Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema, who broke his fast 15 minutes before kick-off against Chelsea in the Champions League and then went on to score a hat-trick.

And Nujum Sports continued their excellent work by handing out Ramadan packs to almost 300 athletes, while also holding educational workshops.

Turning to Islam

There was some pleasant news off the pitch with a couple of star players taking their Shahadah and accepting Islam.

Arsenal and Ghana midfielder Thomas Partey was pictured with an imam in London holding a Quran after taking his proclamation.

The news came after Dutch legend and four-times Champions League winner Clarence Seedorf also announced he had become a Muslim.

The former midfielder said on Instagram: “A special thanks to all the nice messages in celebration of me joining the #Muslim #family.”  

“I didn’t change my name and will continue to carry my name as given by my parents, Clarence Seedorf. I’m sending all my love to everyone in the world.”

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