FIFA strikes blow to Quebec’s turban ban, allowing headwear’s use in soccer

turban ban

Mukhbir Singh, World Sikh Organization of Canada’s Quebec vice-president, wears a traditional turban in Dollard des Ormeux near Montreal, Tuesday April 16. Phil Carpenter / THE GAZETTE

THE GAZETTE

MONTREAL – Soccer’s world body has struck a blow against Quebec’s turban ban, saying such headwear is perfectly acceptable on the pitch.

FIFA said in a statement Friday it is authorizing the wearing of male head covers at all levels of Canadian soccer.

The statement says the headwear must be the same colour as the jersey, look professional, must not be attached to the jersey and not pose any danger to players.

FIFA’s position comes four days after the Canadian Soccer Association suspended Quebec’s soccer federation after the provincial body banned the wearing of Sikh headwear.

The Quebec organization had cited safety issues for its decision and the fact that the garments were not endorsed by FIFA.

A spokesman for the Quebec Soccer Federation says it will hold a news conference Saturday to discuss FIFA’s ruling and that there will be no comment Friday.

The decision to suspend Quebec will begin being felt this weekend as at least 20 out-of-province teams skip a tournament in Montreal.

Some players in Quebec leagues have decided to wear turbans in protest of the ban.

That ban had the support of Quebec’s Parti QuĂ©bĂ©cois government and some sovereigntists have even used the case as an argument for Quebec independence.

However, many federal politicians opposed the ban and applauded the CSA suspension – with the Conservatives and Liberals being the most forceful.

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The FIFA decision extends a decision on female head scarves from October 2012.

FIFA sent a letter to the Canadian Soccer Association on Thursday and authorized it to permit all players to wear head covers “in all areas and on all levels of the Canadian football community.”

FIFA said the matter will be discussed again in October with a final decision taking place in March 2014.

Speaking to The Gazette, a FIFA spokeswoman declined to comment further.

“Normally we do not really comment on state events. So far we issued the statement and we have no further comment on that.”

The World Sikh Organization welcomed FIFA’s declaration.

World Sikh Organization vice-president for Quebec Mukhbir Singh said: “We appreciate FIFA’s statement and the clarity it brings to this situation. We are hopeful that the Quebec Soccer Federation will now immediately lift its ban on the turban. We want to see all the children play again as soon as possible. We cannot conceive of any reason to drag this unfortunate situation out any longer.

“Just let the children play.”

- with files from Riley Sparks, The Gazette 

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