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MIDEAST > ‘Hijab ban driving women away from football’

SINGAPORE – Reuters

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The issue on hijab ban reignited after Iran’s Olympic football team withdrew from a qualifying match. REUTERS photo

The issue on hijab ban reignited after Iran’s Olympic football team withdrew from a qualifying match. REUTERS photo

Muslim women are being driven away from football by FIFA’s ban of the hijab, with more likely to follow if rulemakers fail to reverse the decision at a meeting next month, Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein of Jordan told Reuters. 

While physical Olympic sports such as rugby and taekwondo allow Muslim women to wear the headscarf in competition, football, the world’s most popular sport, remains against its use, citing safety concerns. 

Last year the Iranian women’s football team players were prevented from playing its 2012 Olympic second round qualifying match against Jordan because they refused to remove their hijabs before kick-off. 

Iran had topped its group in the first round of Olympic qualifiers after going undefeated, however the Asian nation was given 3-0 defeats in its four second round matches because of its failure to comply with the rules, their dreams of competing in London abruptly ended. 

“It is very important that everybody has the chance to play the sport that they love and obviously the laws of the games have to be amended to allow that,” Prince Ali, a FIFA vice-president, told Reuters in an interview in Singapore. 

“I think that football, being the most popular sport in the world, accessible to all, we should take the lead on this issue and therefore that is what we are trying to pursue and hopefully we will get a pass from IFAB.” 

Crucial meeting 

Founded in 1886, IFAB, or the International Football Association Board, is football’s ultimate law-making body comprising four members from the sport’s world governing body, FIFA, and four from the British associations. 

They will hold a meeting in England on March 3 where Prince Ali will present the case for allowing players to use a Dutch-designed Velcro hijab which comes apart if pulled and, he hopes, will remove safety concerns. 

“As far as I’m concerned, I want to make sure and guarantee what it is - that football is for everyone,” said the Prince, who at 36 is the youngest member of FIFA’s all-powerful executive committee. 
“If you look at other sports such as rugby, they are allowed to play so therefore we hope it will be the same case with football.” 

A three-quarters majority is required for the proposal to be passed by IFAB, who first banned the hijab in 2007 when 11-year-old Asmahan Mansour was prevented from playing a match by the Quebec Soccer Federation after she refused to remove her headscarf. 

“I do hope and do believe that if common sense does prevail all will be supportive of this, why not? 
“I don’t like the politics, we are going straight to the point which is to allow all of our players to participate on all levels,” Prince Ali said. 

In 2010, FIFA adjusted their rules to allow a cap that covers the players heads to the headline but did not extend below the ears to cover the neck.

February/11/2012

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