Quebec Soccer Association Bans Turban, Tells Sikh Boys to "Play in Backyard"
When FIFA lifted its years-long hijab ban in 2012, Muslim soccer players and allies rejoiced. A key supporter of the hijab ban was the Quebec Soccer Association. It seems now that the bully has moved on to another target. The Association is now kicking at the Sikh community with a decision on Sunday to ban the turban, making it the only provincial association in Canada to disallow turbans on the soccer field.
Internationally, FIFA’s current rules do not explicitly state a position on the turban. Nationally, Soccer Canada does not endorse this position nor did they endorse the hijab ban.
It is also important to note there is no advantage in wearing the turban for heading nor has there been documented evidence that it is a danger to the player. However, the Association is choosing to claim this as a concern even though they cannot cite any incident of the turban being a problem on the pitch.
Brigitte Frot, the director-general of the provincial association, was asked what she would tell a five-year-old boy in a turban who shows up to register to play soccer with his friends. She replied: “They can play in their backyard. But not with official referees, not in the official rules of soccer. They have no choice.”
For Sikh people who believe that the turban is a religious requirement, this rule asks them to choose between following their religion and playing soccer. For many people, playing sports is a way of staying healthy, building self-esteem, and being part of a strong community. The opportunity to participate in organized sports represents more than just an occasional meet-up to kick a ball around; for many people, it also plays a vital role in their holistic health.
The ban has the potential to drive away Sikh people that wear the turban from playing soccer. Isn’t it important that everybody have the chance to play the sport that they love? The Association deserves a red card for its inability to accommodate diverse communities. It should consider the unequal implications of its rules, and amend the laws so that everyone has the right to play.
Farrah Khan is a community based counselor, artist and educator. You can reach her at www.farrahkhan.ca.
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