Iftar held at St Mary’s as part of Ramadan celebrations

Hun­dreds of Mus­lims gath­ered at St Mary’s Sta­di­um as the club host­ed its first-ever Iftar cel­e­bra­tions.

Wor­ship­pers were wel­comed to the home of Saints for the cel­e­bra­to­ry meal host­ed by the club for the first time in its his­to­ry.

Iftar is the fast-break­ing evening meal of Mus­lims in Ramadan at the time to call the prayer.

Daily Echo: Worshippers praying at St Mary's StadiumWor­ship­pers pray­ing at St Mary’s Sta­di­um (Image: Newsquest, Jose Ramos)

The evening start­ed with talks by among oth­ers Greg Bak­er, direc­tor of Com­mu­ni­ty at Southamp­ton FC, Rashid Islam, sec­re­tary at the Mus­lim Coun­cil of Southamp­ton, and oth­er faith lead­ers.

Fol­low­ing that, the call to prayer was sung through the stadium’s PA and then the 340 wor­ship­pers car­ried out their prayers from around 6.30pm before shar­ing the fast-break­ing meal togeth­er.

Daily Echo: Rashid Islam, of the Muslim Council of SouthamptonRashid Islam, of the Mus­lim Coun­cil of Southamp­ton (Image: Newsquest, Jose Ramos)

Rashid Islam, of the Mus­lim Coun­cil of Southamp­ton, said: “We kind of under­es­ti­mat­ed how many peo­ple would come, we thought about 300 peo­ple would come but with­in 48 hours of the advert going out it was sold out.

“Ever since then, I have received mes­sages and calls from peo­ple want­i­ng to come. It’s a great idea and a great ini­tia­tive. It gets the com­mu­ni­ty to cel­e­brate Ramadan but also gets peo­ple from oth­er faiths to learn a bit about Mus­lim cul­ture.

“As Mus­lims, we love three things: prayer, food and foot­ball so all three com­bined togeth­er is a dream!”

He added: “It’s very impor­tant that Southamp­ton FC realise they do have anoth­er base.

“This is an oppor­tu­ni­ty for the com­mu­ni­ty to see the club and see how wel­come the club so that they feel inte­grat­ed and feel wel­come.”

Daily Echo: Greg Baker, director of community at Southampton FCGreg Bak­er, direc­tor of com­mu­ni­ty at Southamp­ton FC (Image: Newsquest, Jose Ramos)

Greg Bak­er of Southamp­ton FC said: “The foot­ball club is real­ly com­mit­ted to work­ing with the local com­mu­ni­ty and it’s some­thing we haven’t done before and some­thing we feel it’s real­ly impor­tant to sup­port.

“We are real­ly want­i­ng to make sure that every­one feels wel­come and val­ued here at the club as a poten­tial place to come to games and events and work.

“In truth, we haven’t reached out to the Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ty before in this way and it feels like a fan­tas­tic oppor­tu­ni­ty to show­case, we are a wel­com­ing envi­ron­ment and we want peo­ple to engage with.”