Cape Town - Stormers loose forward Nizaam Carr says he’s enjoying the balance between his rugby career, religion, marriage and giving back to his community.
Although he’s the only Muslim player at the Stormers, Nizaam Carr doesn’t feel like an outsider at the Cape franchise.
The coaches and players have embraced the diversity within the squad, with everyone showing interest in every team-mate’s culture or religion. Team-building excursions are even planned to allow each player to introduce his peers to their background or cultural activities.
During June and July, all Muslims celebrated the holy month of Ramadan, which marked a special religious period for Carr.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad according to Islamic belief.
The loose forward said this year’s Eid celebrations on Wednesday last week (July 6, 2016) were even more special as he got to spend it with his wife, Aa’esha.
“I had a joyous Eid with my family and friends. It was the first time I celebrated Eid with my wife after getting married last year,” Carr told MyPlayers. “It was nice to spend it with her and both of our families, which made it a big occasion for us.
“Every Muslim sportsman and woman have their own preference in terms of how they manage their career and religion.” he continued. “Islam is not a difficult religion. I’ve been fasting since the age of 12, so I am used to playing during the fast. I work hard to ensure I’m able to balance my rugby and religious commitments. It does get tough at times, but with the right mindset, you can conquer all challenges.
“I really appreciate the support and respect I get from my team-mates. There are many players who dedicate time to prayer during training or before and after matches, and as the only Muslim, I get to do my own prayers when needed. There’s a special bond among the players at the Stormers.”
On the field, Carr has shown great improvement in form during Super Rugby this season. He’s been working hard behind the scenes and hopes to continue his recent rise.
“I’m quite happy with the way the season has gone so far. I’m enjoying my consistency and I want to build on that. I feel there have been many improvements in my game compared to last year,” said Carr.
“It helps when you have a coach who believes in you. (Stormers coach) Robbie Fleck offers amazing support and always backs me, which helps a lot. I want to continue doing well for the Stormers and hope to play my way back into the Springbok squad in the near future. I know it won’t be easy, but all hard work gets rewarded.”
Carr added that there’s a special combination between himself and the other loose forwards, namely Siya Kolisi, Schalk Burger and Sikhumbuzo Notshe.
“Yeah... we’re a close bunch of players, especially among the loosies,” said Carr. “Siya and Schalk are strong ball carriers, while Notshe and I like to hit the gaps to build attacking momentum with ball in hand. Schalk also brings a lot of experience to the team and his leadership adds so much value. We all get along very well and motivate each other.”
The Stormers enjoyed a successful overseas tour to Australia during the past fortnight, where they picked up back-to-back bonus-point victories over the Rebels and Western Force. Although they still have a match against the Kings this weekend, the Stormers have already qualified for the knockouts.
Carr said the players are delighted with their recent performances, but stressed that there are bigger challenges that lie ahead.
“We are happy to make the play-offs, but we need to ensure we continue our good momentum. We face the Kings this weekend and we can’t afford to lose focus. The Kings will provide a tough challenge and we need to ensure we do enough to get the win,” said Carr. “We will worry about the play-offs during the next round. Our opponents still need to be confirmed, so we need to be prepared for every challenge.”
While the Stormers will be focused on their Super Rugby goals, Carr is also building a legacy in his community off the field. He’s started his own sports academy called the Cape Sports Academy in Athlone, which helps the youth in his hometown use sport as a vehicle for motivation and opportunity.
“Sport is big in my community. The people in my community are very passionate, whether you’re playing or just supporting. Sport played a big role in my life as I got to compete in rugby, soccer, volleyball, cricket and athletics… and those experiences added a lot of value to my upbringing. I want to offer my people the same experiences,” said Carr.
“However, I want the youth to understand that sport is there for the enjoyment. It also plays a big mentorship role during one’s upbringing and development, especially at a young age.
“It’s not all about winning, which creates pressure. It’s about learning important lessons and adapting those lessons to your life.
“I also want to create opportunities for talented kids who don’t have a direct pathway to a professional sports career.
“We currently have 35 young kids involved in the academy this year. Last year, we had 25, so there is growth. My main aim is to make a positive impact in their lives. If one kid could go on and achieve a professional career, then that would be a dream come true.”
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