In the last couple of months, I have covered extensively the issue of IFAB lifting the ban on hijabs on the pitch. As a footballer who chooses to wear hijab, this issue was terribly personal and very important to me.
I have been playing for decades and am elated that Muslim players may now be included in international and FIFA sanctioned competitions.
Even more recently, I was thrilled to find out that Quebec had rescinded and was going to be the last province to allow hijab on the pitch. For a variety of reasons the Quebec Soccer Federation (QSF) had been most reluctant to accept the ruling despite the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) encouraging the ban being lifted; as most of the other provinces had already done.
Fortunately, they could no longer pretend that their decisions were based on player safety and equality when IFAB struck down the ban in July 2012 and a FIFA-approved hijab was designed by a woman living in Montreal.
I was happy for the sport and for the opportunity for more women to participate in the beautiful game. I figured that the issue of head coverings in the football world was now moot.
A week and a half ago, I discovered that, once again, Quebec has banned head covering from the pitch. Not hijabs but to my disgust… Sikh turbans.
In traditional form Quebec has disallowed Sikh turbans from the pitch despite directives from the CSA to allow them. The QSF is a provincial body that governs the sport in it’s’ province. Some have questioned why the CSA can’t simply overrule the provincial body as they have been advocating for equal access for all players.
Unfortunately, the CSA cannot interfere in issues of sport as they fall under provincial jurisdiction. CSA is the national body that is in charge of National programs and teams and represents Canada on the international level to FIFA and in CONCACAF.
The issue of the inclusion of religious clothing in sport has been percolating in Quebec for awhile. The impermissibility of hijab on the pitch garnered much attention in mainstream media in recent years since the Iran National Women’s squad was rejected from Olympic qualifying matches in June 2011, due to that very reason.
At the same time in Quebec, there was a young Sikh player who was barred from playing with his turban. The incidents were not widely reported and infrequent. And yet, remained unresolved.