Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Husain Abdullah with the participants during a training session at Aspire Zone.
The year is 2012. Husain Abdullah has already spent four years playing as safety in NFL but finishes the previous season on the injured reserve list because of a concussion suffered while playing for Minnesota Vikings. And then Abdullah took a decision that very few professional sportspersons would ever consider.
He took a break.
And there was a main reason why he took that decision. Abdullah and his family always wanted to perform Haj and so he decided to fulfil that. In October 2012, Abdullah, along with his parents, wife and two older brothers, went for the holy pilgrimage.
Before going to Haj, the brothers also did a 30-day tour across United States during Ramadan. During this trip, they visited almost 30 cities, praying in different mosques across the country, meeting people and also doing community service.
But while Abdullah was doing all of this, he knew that this move had put his playing career at a big risk. But strangely the then 26-year-old didn’t feel too disturbed.
“It was something that I became content with. It was like, yeah, there was a chance that I would never be able to play professional football again, but it was something that I needed to be content with and I was. If I could get back in, great, if I wasn’t able to, I wasn’t,” Abdullah said yesterday.
But Abdullah didn’t have to wait for too long. Next year he was back with Kansas City Chiefs and his playing career was back on line. “Alhamdulillah, I was able to get back in,” he said with a smile.
Abdullah cherishes the memories of that memorable 30-day trip where he got to bond with his brothers.
“I went with my two older brothers [on that trip]. It was the first time we were together for an extended period of time since 1998, because that was when my brother had stepped out of the house. It was a blessing just to be with them, and just to see how much all of us have grown,” added Abdullah, whose elder brother Hamza also played safety with Arizona Cardinals, Cleveland Browns and Denver Broncos before retiring in December last year.
Two years later, yesterday, Abdullah was at Aspire Zone training adults and kids in American Football.
“It’s an honor to be part of the Ramadan Sports Festival and I am very impressed by what I have seen here so far,” said Abdullah, taking a break from the training sessions he seems to be enjoying a lot.
“They caught on very well. Some of the guys were there the night before and so we were able to get into more technical stuff. We had a lot of fun.”
Besides being an effective defensive back, Abdullah is known to fast during Ramadan even while playing.
“I had one teammate who was eating his food, and someone was talking to me about fasting and this guy goes, ‘Wait a minute, you can’t eat?’ I replied ‘No, I can’t’. And he just threw his knife and fork down and walked out of the cafeteria,” the 28-year-old, who played college football at Washington State University, said.
“Some guys are tired having spent a lot of energy, and then they see a guy who is fasting and still doing the same thing that they have been doing, so they do say ‘What am I complaining about?’ You get all kinds of mixed reactions.
“I have got people come up to me talk about how they admire and respect me for the fact that I put faith before anything. I met a lady, a 70-year-old lady who looked like she had never heard of Islam before. She was like ‘you are the guy who can’t eat, huh? I admire you’. It reaches a lot of people. It is a blessing for people to be educated about Islam through me.”
American sport has long been associated with glamour. Is it difficult to blank all of those distractions out?
“It is not real life. It is not. I know a lot of players, former players, while they are playing, people lift them high and mighty, and the second they are not playing, they don’t even give them a second look anymore. So for me, it is a short-lived career and I know it is something fake. I just live my daily life normal,” Abdullah said.
Abdullah will head back to Kansas City after his Doha trip for the training camp with Chiefs. In the preseason, the team is scheduled to meet Cincinnati Bengals, Carolina Panthers, Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers.
“We play against Minnesota in week 3, that’s my old team and I need to make sure I am right up there for that one,” he said.
This year the Ramadan Sports Festival also includes a Flag Football tournament, which is a variation of American Football, on today and tomorrow. Aspire Zone Foundation CEO Khalid Abdullah al-Sulaiteen said: “As AZF is the premium sports destination in the region, we always try to be a platform for different sports and introduce new ones to our community. American Football is one of those games we are providing support to encourage and spread. So far, it received good turnout and we hope it continues to do.”