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article imageFIFA firm on Iran women's Olympic soccer team hijab ban

By Kim I. Hartman     Jun 8, 2011 in Sports
Amman - FIFA is holding firm to the recent hijab ban that forced the Iranian women's soccer team to forfeit their qualifying matches against Jordan and Vietnam virtually ending their dreams for a berth in the 2012 Olympic games to be held in London.
The Iranian women's soccer team were defeated, before they got a chance to play in recent FIFA football matches, by the hijab, or headscarves worn by the Muslim athletes, said FOX news.
FIFA, football's governing body, banned the Islamic head scarf as early as 2007, concerned that they could cause a choking hazard. The organization has also banned the 'snoods', neck-warmers popular with European women's teams.
FIFA announced Monday that "the Iranian team was correctly prevented from playing by the Bahraini official for safety reasons and they say Iranian government officials were “thoroughly informed" before Friday’s match against Jordan that the hijab scarf was not permissable," reports Associated Press.
In a statement to the AP, FIFA said “Despite initial assurances that the Iranian delegation understood this, the players came out wearing the hijab, and the head and neck totally covered, which was an infringement of the laws of the game."
“This ruling means that women soccer in Iran is over,” said Shahrzad Mozafar, the team’s former head coach, according to the Washington Post. She said that now that FIFA is no longer allowing Iranian women to wear scarves, the Iranian government will no longer send them abroad for competitions. “Headscarves are simply what we wear in Iran,” she said. "In the Islamic Republic of Iran all women are obliged to cover their hair, neck, arms and legs according to the state’s interpretation of Shiite Islamic tenets."
Iranian soccer players play in full tracksuits with headscarves that cover the head wrapping tightly around the neck to compete internationally, and still be able to function on the playing field, but FIFA requires the neck and ears to remain uncovered. FIFA has strict guidelines that ban any religious statements in choices of team uniforms and the hijab falls under the rules of religious uniforms.
FIFA's rules for the 2012 Olympics state: "Players and officials shall not display political, religious, commercial or personal messages or slogans in any language or form on their playing or team kits," reports AlJazeera.
London Olympics 2012 logo
London Olympics 2012 logo
Nigel Chadwick
Iran has recently been in the news this year after threatening to boycott the 2012 Olympic Games in London if the Olympic logo isn't changed. Iran, and others, claims the logo spells out the word Zion.
"Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iran president, described FIFA as 'colonialists' for banning his country's women's football team from wearing headscarves.These are the dictators and colonialists who want to impose their lifestyle on others," Ahmadinejad said reported The National. "We will deal with those who carried out this ugly job. We follow definite rights of our girls."
Mustafa Musleh Zadeh, Iran's ambassador to Jordan, went further by saying that the ban was "inhumane" and "politically motivated."
Three Jordanian players were also banned from playing, for refusing to remove the hijab, in the same match in which the Iranian team was disqualified causing the 3-0 forfeit to Jordan.
FARS News Agency reports: "Iranian Football Federation (IFF) Ali Kaffashian sent a letter to FIFA President to protest at the world football governing body for its anti-Islamic approach and disrespect for national values. "Iran's women team took part in the Olympic qualifier according to FIFA rules. FIFA commissioner's decision to bar the Iranian team is not logical," Kaffashian wrote in a letter to FIFA President Sepp Blatter.
Kaffashian said "the Iranian team had used the clothing in competitions accepted by FIFA, but the Bahraini official in charge of the match refused to let the Iranian team to compete against Jordan. Kaffashian told FARS News that he did not see any safety reason for not allowing the girls to compete and warned that he would file a lawsuit to FIFA against the Bahraini official who banned Iranian women soccer team from competing against Jordan."
The Jordan Times reports: "HRH Prince Ali, FIFA vice president, said on Tuesday he will raise with world and Asian football bodies a ban on the Iran’s women’s team over their traditional Islamic headscarf. This is an important issue that I will raise with the Asian Football Confederation and with the International Federation of Association Football. We will work together to find a solution that respects the rules of the game and the culture at the same time."
“Football is about fair play and respect and I am confident that we can resolve this issue."
FIFA and Iran were able to reach a compromise last year so the the Iranian Youth Soccer team was able to compete in the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore in 2010, according to a report by Muslim Women in Sports blog.
"The new compromise ruling says that, although the girls cannot play wearing the headscarf, or hijab, they will be allowed to wear "a cap that covers their heads to the hairline but does not extend below the ears to cover the neck," according to a statement issued by FIFA." Video from the sporting event showing the approved headscarves can be seen here.
Women athletes from the Islamic Republic of Iran have participated in and excelled at international events in sports including badminton,karate and volleyball, and in winter sports Iran was represented at the Vancouver games by a female downhill skier but women are not represented in other Olympic sports such as swimming and gymnastics where the uniform rules dictated by the governing bodies are not acceptable to every faction of the Muslim community.
Iran's former head soccer coach Shahrzad Mozafar, said "When a serious women athlete can’t participate internationally, which ambitions are left for her."
Pictures of the Iranian women's soccer team uniforms and hijabs can be seen here.
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