“Remove the turban or you can’t play”
Was what a fifteen-year-old Sikh football player in Italy was told.
During a youth football game in the province of Brescia, between USD Montirone and Real Eufemi a few weeks ago, Gurpartap Singh of USD Montirone was instructed to take off the turban prior to the kick-off only to be told that he could play with 10 minutes remaining.
This obviously is a case of discrimination and ignorance, and on that basis USD Montirone was absolutely right in reporting the matter to the concerned authorities.
With FIFA explicitly having given the OK on the issue of Sikh players wearing the turban on the field earlier in the year, one would think that the word would have spread across the global community.
The Football Association has taken a clear position through its provincial president, Alberto Pasquali clarifying that the decision was too harsh.
“The referees should avoid certain excesses of zeal. Regulations should apply remembering that it is not a war with players or coaches. We hope that the referees ensure players and coaches have the opportunity to go out and participate with all being equal. The referees should be helped, but they should also help the teams. The regulation should be applied. But common sense should always come in first.”
The regulation, in the case of a headgear, specifies anything that may be deemed as dangerous be taken off. However, it is certainly not the case for players practicing the Sikh religion let alone Gurpartap, who had worn it in previous games without any problems.
Even Brescia’s manager – Cristiano Bergodi, the legendary defender who once captained Lazio during its glory days, did not shy away from voicing his concerns on the issue.
“Honestly, I’m not so convinced that it was in excess of zeal. In cases like this it makes me think that the referees have something different in their heads. What does it mean to ask a boy to remove a turban or tights (relating to a Nigerian youth player who was told to remove them before a game)? What is the meaning? Things are getting ridiculous nowadays. I hope that such incidents do not occur again.”
And so do we. Though Gurpartap was told that he could come onto the pitch, he refrained from entering the game.