Ban on women footballers wearing hijab to be lifted

Saturday, 03 March 2012
By Andrew Warshaw in Bagshot

Iran womens_team_in_hijab_Amman_June_3_2011March 3 - The ultra-conservative International Football Association Board (IFAB), comprising FIFA and the four British Home Associations, rarely if ever reverses its decisions but made an exception here today by unanimously agreeing to lift the ban on the Islamic headscarf being worn by female footballers, pending health and safety checks.

Muslim women will therefore be cleared to wear the headscarf in international football from July following the historic decision taken at the IFAB's annual meeting, held at an exclusive hotel and spa complex here in Surrey, England.

FIFA's youngest and most progressive Executive Committee member Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan had led the campaign to overturn the ban on the hijab on safety grounds and gave a persuasive demonstration on revolutionary non-zipped Velcro-designed headscarves that were deemed 100 per cent safe.

Prince Ali is understood to have received significant backing from English Football Association chairman David Bernstein, who chaired the meeting, to make sure the issue received a full airing.

The IFAB has, down the years, been highly protective of standard football kit.

But the headscarf issue hit the headlines last summer when Iran's women's team had to forfeit their Olympic qualifiers after refusing to remove their hijabs.

Prince Ali_in_Amman
That was the day before Prince Ali officially took up his role on the FIFA Executive Committee and, since the incident occurred in his native Jordan, he launched a personal campaign to force a change of attitude.

"I am deeply grateful that the proposal to allow women to wear a headscarf in football was unanimously endorsed by all members of IFAB," the Prince told reporters after today's hearing.

"I am confident that once the final ratification in the July Special Meeting of IFAB takes place, we will see many delighted and happy players returning to the football field and playing the game that they love."

FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke was keen to stress that FIFA had not been pressured into supporting a change of heart.

"We had a lot of letters from around the world but that was not the basis of the decision," he said,

"It was based on a report and what the four members and FIFA felt about this issue had nothing to do with what the United Nations said to FIFA.

"After all, we don't say anything about Syria to the United Nations.

"It was purely a football issue."

Approval was also granted to the English FA's proposal to have a two-year experiment on rolling substitutes in amateur football, considered hugely important in terms of bringing more grass-roots players into the game.

A recommendation to allow a fourth substitute to be used during extra-time was thrown out but lawmakers did agree that players red-carded for denying a goalscoring opportunity should not necessarily be suspended in future.

Contact the writer of this story at andrew.warshaw@insideworldfootball.biz


Related stories
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March 2012: UN urge FIFA to scrap hijab ban to "challenge gender stereotypes"
February 2012: FIFPro backs FIFA vice-president's pro-hijab campaign
February 2012: Hijab ban is limiting participation, insists FIFA's Prince Ali
January 2012: Asian Football Confederation supports campaign to lift hijab ban on female football players
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