Photo: Facebook Page of FIFA
MONTREAL – Soccer’s international rule-making body has given a final go-ahead to allow players to wear religious head coverings during games, clarifying an issue that stirred controversy in Quebec last summer.
A FIFA panel known as the International Football Association Board made the decision Saturday, extending a two-year trial period during which hijabs were permitted. Turbans will also be allowed.
Last year, Quebec’s soccer federation set off a political firestorm — and was suspended by the Canadian Soccer Association — for enforcing a ban on turbans and other religious headwear.
The federation lifted the ban after FIFA clarified last June that such headwear was acceptable.
A spokesman for the Quebec Soccer Federation said they are satisfied with the decision and plan to follow the rules.
“All we’ve wanted, for years, is to have a clear position (from FIFA) and rules to follow, and now we know what to do, and we’ll do it,” said Michel Dugas.
The decision on head coverings follows extra trials after a July 2012 decision to approve scarves worn by Islamic female players.
FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said Saturday’s decision extended to male players following a request from Sikh community leaders in Canada.
“You cannot have discrimination,” Valcke said at a news conference in Zurich, Switzerland. “It was decided that what can apply to female players can also apply to men.”
Last year, the Quebec organization had cited safety issues for its controversial move as well as the fact the garments were not endorsed by FIFA.
The Parti Quebecois government came out in favour of the federation’s position, while many federal politicians slammed it as exclusionary.
Dugas maintained the federation wasn’t trying to create problems and only wanted to get clarity from FIFA.
“It’s a debate that isn’t easy, and that’s probably why it took so long,” he said.
– with files from Catherine Gignac