March 1, 2014
The option to wear the headscarf or turban has officially been approved within the practice of football, the FIFA announced on March 1st. At the request of certain Muslim countries, the International Football Association Board (IFAB), which handles legal aspects of football, had agreed to a tentative trial allowing the headscarf on strict conditions two years ago. The headscarf question had become more prominent in recent years, with Iran having gone as far as pressing charges against the FIFA because its female players, prevented from covering their heads, had to forgo the London Olympics in 2012.
The French president of the FIFA, Jerome Valcke, said during a press conference that a trial had been undertaken and ‘a decision has been made: female players can have their heads covered while playing.’ The Board saw no valid reasons to ban it if strict conditions are met. The headscarf must be tightly fitted around the player’s head, be coordinated with the player’s uniform, not be attached to the maillot, must not have any loose parts, and must not constitute a danger to the player nor to others.
However, if the new authorization of head-coverings is valid for the whole world, it does not mean that it will be applied everywhere.
Two years ago, the Federation Francaise du Football (FFF) had banned its players from wearing the headscarf, ‘in order to respect the constitutional precepts of secularism’ in France. The FFF reiterated that the principle of secularism remained valid including in regards to the participation of French selections in international competitions, and upheld the prohibition on all religious signs in the country.
The President of the Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP), Frederic Thiriez, deplored the ruling as a ‘grave mistake.’ ‘I regret the decision of the FIFA which undermines the principal of universality of football in which all players, male and female, are supposed to be subject to the same rules and match conditions. Whereas the Olympic chart bans all religious symbols, this decision goes against women rights and threatens the neutrality of football that is safe from religious and political conflict.’