Nejme Saad placed the food on the table, sat down and cried.
"What are you crying for," Zafir asked his wife as he turned skewers of meat, charring them on the barbecue.
"Adam is over there," Nejme said.
Her son Adam was on the Gold Coast playing for the Suns, not at home in Brunswick West with the rest of his five brothers and sisters breaking the fast for Ramadan.
Days later, Nejme was on a plane to the Gold Coast along with her second son Muhammad for a couple of weeks to be with, and look after, Adam through Ramadan.
Nejme thinks she might have gone to the Gold Coast a hundred more times in the three years Adam was there.
Fatma, Adams older sister, laughs about Muslim boys being spoiled by their mums. The family argues playfully over who is the favourite of the six Saad kids.
"Its probably Khadijah, by a little bit," Zafir says and roars laughing. He turns the skewers on the barbecue. "Shes given me four grandkids."
Nejme goes to all of Adams games. A hijab tight around her face, she sits with two of Adams aunts and they dissect the game.
"We call them Mike Sheahan, Paul Roos and James Hird, they sit there talking footy like experts," Zafir laughed throatily. Zafir laughs a lot.
To understand Adam Saad you have to understand his family. To understand his family you have to appreciate his religion. To appreciate his religion you need to understand his family. You cant separate one from the other. You also cant separate the family.
The Saads are Lebanese-Australian. Zafir was born in the mountains north of Tripoli in a village called Denba. Nejmes family is from the same village.
Zafirs father made the water bags that villagers slung over the backs of donkeys to tote water from wells. In 1974, with the country heading towards civil war, he gathered up his family and left.
Zafir was nine when he arrived in Australia and the family settled in Melbournes inner north. He adopted footy, not soccer, straight away.
Zafir drove taxis most of his life as he and Nejme raised their six kids in Brunswick West. His mum and dad had a house 100 metres away. Adams uncles are in walking distance too.
The families live so close they see each other nightly. Adam visits his nieces and nephew every night after praying at the mosque.
Adam liked playing footy for the Gold Coast Suns, but he could not stay there. You realise that when you sit at his family table in the backyard with the barbecue smoking and family members gathering and waiting to break the fast of Ramadan. His family and his religion are central to his life.
"Gold Coast were very good to me – the opportunity they gave me was second to none. But for me coming back home was the No.1 thing; I am very close to my family, my family and my religion is everything to me," he said.
He admits that as eldest son in the family, and with a brother, Noah, 10 years younger, he felt the responsibility to be present in the family more keenly.
Only Khadijah has moved out of the family home. Adam will marry in October and move out. Maybe. Probably. Theyd stay in the house too if there was room.
Adam sits at the table under the pergola in the backyard of his familys house as tray after tray of food emerges from inside.
Zafir is standing over the smoking charcoal barbecue turning skewers of beautiful, seasoned chicken, lamb and beef. Family members keep emerging from inside either with trays or to hover hungrily over the food.
Its 5.15pm. The sun will be down soon. After the trays of rice, labneh, pitas, and bowls of dates, out comes a tray of hot salty chips. This is testing.
"Chips are the hardest. I love my chips. I have them every day. If there is something I want to break fast on – or not break fast on, we break fast on dates and water – but if there is something I want to eat during the fast its chips," Adam said as the tray is put down near him.
Now is the easy part. Now it is just minutes until the fasting that began when the sun came up is broken. Zafir often makes the family wait that few extra minutes before they eat for reasons of amused torture known only to dads of every race and culture the world over and their warped sense of humour.
Adam trains and plays during Ramadan and observes the religious custom proudly. Even with training and playing he does not buckle and take even a sip of water.
We joined the fasting this day. The food is the easy bit, but doing without the water and the coffee – oh, the coffee – thats the hard bit.
"There are no exemptions [for training and playing]. We just have faith in God and we go in with the intention of fasting and we feel like when we do fast God gives us or strength, Allah gives us our strength," Adam said.
"You feel lighter, you feel stronger, you feel the same if not better. Its a month we love playing in; I was talking to Bachar as well and he felt the same. (Bachar Houli was best on ground on last Saturday night for Richmond).
"It is more attention to detail in your preparation. You wake up at 4.30 in the morning to make sure you get the right food in. You make sure you are drinking and eating to last 12 hours. Its hard to stomach food at that time.
You feel lighter, you feel stronger, you feel the same if not better. [Ramadan] is a month we love playing in; I was talking to Bachar as well and he felt the same.
Adam Saad, Essendon player
"It feels like you lose two kilos when you fast and you gain five when you eat, there is that much food. It doesnt change my body weight over the month but the skin folds it does, the skin folds drop a massive amount.
"We break on dates and water. Its healthy, the dates are very healthy and beneficial for us. We try and drink the water and just rehydrate."
Most of the Essendon players have fasted for a day or two with Adam during Ramadan. Coach John Worsfold has done it, too.
"All the boys, they have picked a day each to support me through the month and help me. Its good. They get into it," Saad said.
Tonight is a small gathering at the Saad house. Only four his five brothers and sisters are there as well as the Sunday Age and a couple of people from Essendon. Often there are double that.
There is no movement from next door either. Often when the barbecue is cooking, Ang Christou pops his head up over the fence and then comes in to join his neighbours for kofta, Read More – Source