Sunday, June 24, 2007

World ban on head-gear upsets Scottish players

A Scottish women's team has reportedly been prevented from playing competitive matches because its players insist on wearing religious headdress during games. Zuby Malik, coach of Glasgow-based Ansar Women's FC, Scotland's first female Muslim football team, said this stand appeared to prevent the cub's registration with the Scottish Women's Football Association League. In March a meeting of the International Football Association Board, the guardian of the 'Laws of the Game', reviewed a decision by a Muslim Canadian referee to ban an eleven-year-old girl player because she refused to remove her hijab during a a tournament in Laval, Quebec. The girl’s team forfeited the game in protest after she refused and was sent off. The IFAB concluded that the issue was already covered by its Law 4 on Players’ Equipment and left the interpretation up to officiating referees.

According to Marc Horne in the Scotland on Sunday, the impact of the ruling on Ansar FC has sparked a backlash from the Muslim community in Scotland, with actor and TV presenter Atta Yaqub leading calls for the world-wide ban to be overturned in northern Britain. "It is appalling that people can be effectively banned from playing competitive football for observing their religion. Sport should be about promoting tolerance and understanding and this seems to fly in the face of this. Myself and many others have been trying to build bridges and get youngsters from ethnic minority backgrounds involved in sport." He added: "There was a feeling that football wasn't for them, and we have worked hard to change this, but this rule looks like undermining the progress we have been making."

Rimla Akhtar, of the Muslim Women's Sports Federation, commented that the ruling seems to be "bizarre and rushed" and "undermines all the good work that FIFA has been doing" and Zuby Malik added that "it is ridiculous that I will have to tell the girls that they won't be able to join the league because of this nonsensical ruling. The majority of the girls in our team wear the hijab and it is completely unfair to ask people to choose between their faith and sport. Quite rightly their religion will always come first."

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