Sport & Culture

Hijab Allowed Back on the Football Field

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Sport & Culture

Hijab Allowed Back on the Football Field

John Duerden dissects the IFAB’s decision to lift a ban on women wearing headscarves while playing football.

While much of the football world is welcoming the decision to allow goal line technology, more meaningful is Thursday’s decision by the International Football Association Board (IFAB), which makes major rules changes in the sport, to lift a ban on women wearing headscarves or hijab, while playing football.

The garment has been banned since 2007. The issue really came to a head in 2011, when the Iranian team was forced to forfeit a 2012 Olympic qualification match for refusing to remove their headscarves.

IFAB was satisfied by the arguments stating the hijab was a cultural and not a religious garment.

To deal with the safety issue, FIFA vice-president Prince Ali Bin al-Hussein of Jordan, a passionate campaigner to get the ban lifted, proposed a Velcro hijab.

Al Hussein argued that the hijab was no more dangerous than long hair on the football field. He was supported in his campaign by a number of football players in the English Premier League.

Major figures in Asian football such as president of Zhang Jilong have been calling for the ban to be lifted.

Al Hussein’s arguments, rugby has no problem with the garment, and practical alternative won the day

"Safety and medical issues have been removed for the use of the headscarf and it is approved that players can have the head scarf," FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke told reporters. "The only remaining point now is now the colour and design of the headscarf," he said

After the decision was announced, Al Hussein tweeted his delight.

“Our thanks to IFAB and FIFA for the unanimous decision today to allow women across the world to play w a safe headscarf… Congratulations to all our women football players worldwide. Looking forward to seeing your performance on the pitch!”

Reaction in the Middle-East was understandably positive.

"This decision, impatiently awaited, makes us very happy," said Sheikha Naima al-Sabah, the president of the women's sporting committee for Kuwait's football federation. "It brings justice to female players. Its positive impact will be direct on Kuwaiti women's enthusiasm to play football."