July 5 - Muslim women were given a 100 per cent guarantee by the game's lawmakers today that they are now free to wear the hijab at senior competitive level.
The International Football Association Board (IFAB), meeting in Zurich, said all medical objections to women wearing a specially designed Islamic headscarf had been removed – a huge relief to FIFA's Asian vice-president Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan, the modernist who has led a tireless campaign to overturn the ban on the hijab.
Two months ago, Prince Ali said was "shocked and disturbed" at reports that there were still concerns about the hijab on the basis of safety.
Michel D'Hooghe, chairman of FIFA's Medical Committee, had suggested they could cause neck lesions when pulled.
Yet six weeks earlier, Prince Ali's presentation of the revolutionary velcro-designed headscarves to IFAB members was received rapturously.
The saga appeared to come to an end at the UEFA Executive Committee in Kiev, Ukraine, last week when D'Hooghe indicated a change of heart and that he was, after all, happy with the new designs pending a review in a year's time.
That then led to today's decision by IFAB to once and for all allow hijabs to be worn.
"Safety and medical issues have been removed for the use of the headscarf and it is approved that players can have the headscarf," FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke told reporters.
"The only remaining point now is the design and the colour."
Other sports such as rugby and taekwondo already allow the use of the hijab.
Last year the Iranian women's football team were prevented from playing their London 2012 Olympic second round qualifying match against Jordan because some refused to remove their hijabs before kick-off.
Iran, who had topped their group in the first round of Olympic qualifiers after going undefeated, were handed 3-0 defeats as a penalty which abruptly ended their dreams of qualifying for the London Olympics.
English Football Association general secretary Alex Horne commented: "It's a hugely important decision to allow entire populations of people to enjoy the game we all love in a free capacity knowing they are unencumbered by laws which potentially restrict them enjoying the game."
Prince Ali thanked IFAB members for their "unanimous and historic decision".
In a gushing statement, he said: "This day would not have been possible without the commitment, support and dedication of many individuals and organisations including and not exclusively, the United Nations, the Asian Football Confederation, FIFPro, Confederation of African Football, The Nobel Peace Centre, President Joseph S Blatter, my colleagues on the FIFA Executive Committee, and tens of thousands of supporters from across the world."
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