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Eid Mubarak: Bulldogs celebrate Eid al-Fitr and reflect on annual Iftar dinner

As the sun went down over Belmore Sports Ground on March 25, hundreds of Bulldogs community members joined together to pray on the field and break fast in the grandstand to mark the Bulldogs' Annual Iftar event.

It wasn't the first time the Club had hosted the event but it was the first to openly welcome all local Members, fans and the general public for free who wished to join the activities and enjoy a complimentary buffet meal service.

As the call to prayer sounded, it was a humbling sight for the spiritual home of the Bulldogs. Over 500 people descended on Belmore, embracing the event and the spirit of diversity and inclusion as a continuity of the NRL's Multicultural Round celebrations.

Khaled Rajab was among the attendees at the Iftar event, joined by teammates and staff members who wished to show respect for Rajab's faith.

Rajab observes his faith by fasting during Islam's holiest month of Ramadan - meaning while he maintains his football and training commitments, he abstains from eating and drinking between sunrise and sunset.

Ramadan is the most important month of the Islamic calendar. A period (30 days this year ending today) in which Muslims are asked to fast, give charity, show kindness and patience and strengthen their relationship with God.

Being a professional athlete and observing Ramadan has certainly not been the easiest of tasks, however, Rajab speaks humbly of how fasting can help provide perspective.

"It's been tough," Rajab said while speaking to The Roar during the Annual Iftar event. 

"Usually at the start of Ramadan it's pretty hard coming to training or even drinking water, then seeing the boys have a sip, but you get used to it and you realise that we fast because we want people to feel what other people feel.

"It reminds us of how helpless we are. We live in a country where we can do whatever we want and where we have freedom, other people don't have that.

"You gain that mental strength when you remind yourself of the people in need. It's nothing compared to what they go through."

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Rajab added that he had received nothing but support from Coach Cameron Ciraldo, his teammates and the Club during Ramadan. He said he appreciated how the Club had encouraged him to observe the fast.

'It's incredible what the Bulldogs do and how they involve all cultures," said the five-eighth.

He reflected on the Club's Round 3 Multicultural home game and activities conducted during the pre-season which encouraged all team members to celebrate and share their culture. He also commended the Bulldogs staff, his teammates and the Bulldogs community for coming together to break fast together irrespective of their personal cultures and beliefs.

For me, being a local kid who grew up in the area my whole life, to see the embrace of different cultures and religions is a heartwarming feeling and I'm incredibly grateful...

"We talk a lot about sacrifice in rugby league and that's what Ramadan teaches us.

"The boys are supportive of me. They always ask questions. They're asking if I need a rest or if I need to go pray.

"From the coaching and playing side, I've been heavily supported and that's all you want, you want to be comfortable doing your stuff."

Deputy Chair John Khoury who hosted the 2024 Iftar event, said: "Sometimes the best way to bring people together is through sport,"

"Most major Australian cities are very multicultural, but in this area especially, we have people from all cultures and religions.

"We've got 12 junior Clubs [in the Canterbury-Bankstown area that aren't only socially diverse but economically - you have wealthy and not wealthy, from the edge of Liverpool to Clemton Park and Earlwood.

"If you look at our superstars in modern history - Hazem El Masri came here as an economic refugee from Lebanon, played in soccer and didn't know what rugby league was but ended up as the greatest point scorer in Bulldogs history and the second highest ever to date in the NRL.

"He broke boundaries and is still very much a representation of all these young kids that aspire to be a part of this Club and community."

El Masri together with his wife Arwa Abousamra assisted the Club in hosting the Club's first-ever Iftar event in 2022.

With over 79,000 thousand local citizens in the City of Canterbury-Bankstown who practice the Muslim faith (approximately 21%), the Bulldogs see the hosting of an annual Iftar event as a great way to support the diversity of our local area and an important way to continue to unite and inspire.

The Club hopes the event continues to grow year on year and that even more people choose to get involved in future events.

As today officially marks the end of Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr, a great celebration with families and friends coming together to mark the breaking of the great fast, the Bulldogs want to wish a Blessed Eid (Eid Mubarak) to all those celebrating.


Thank you to all of our 2024 Iftar Dinner sponsors:

  • Human Appeal Australia
  • Triforce
  • Lebanese Muslim Association
  • Future Form
  • Char Cha Catering
  • Di Pacci Coffee Company
  • MCCA Islamic Finance & Investments

Quotes courtesy Mike Meehall Wood, originally published as 'It reminds us of how helpless we are': Life as an NRL player during Ramadan - with a little help from Hazem',

Acknowledgement of Country

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs respect and honour the Darug and Eora nations, who are the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.