Quebec Soccer Federation sticking with turban ban, despite CSA suspension
Published Wednesday, June 12, 2013 8:30AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, June 12, 2013 10:49AM EDT
The Quebec Soccer Federation is refusing to bow to pressure and says it is maintaining its controversial ban on Sikh religious headwear.
The organization issued a statement Wednesday saying its ban on traditional Sikh patkas, keskis and turbans remains in effect.
The Canadian Soccer Association suspended the provincial body on Monday after it showed no sign of overturning its ban. It said the Quebec federal would be banned from the national organization until it lifted its turban restrictions.
In its statement, the Quebec federation said it will do everything it can to re-establish dialogue with the Canadian Soccer Federation.
A number of federal politicians have spoken out against the ban. One soccer team in Quebec has even gone so far as to have its whole team wear turbans to games, to pretest the ban.
Ihab Leheta, the coach of the under-14 team, says while there are no Sikh players on their team, the players wanted to show their outrage.
“On Friday, the day before our game on Saturday, the boys were discussing injustice and racism and I asked them, ‘If we had a Sikh boy on our team, what would we do?’ And they said, ‘Well if he couldn’t play, we wouldn’t play’,” Leheta told CTV’s Canada AM Wednesday.
The boys kept talking, he said, and decided to protest by wearing turbans. Leheta, who says he really didn’t know much about Sikhism until this controversy, looked up a local Sikh temple and called them to ask for help.
“I had to find some turbans for them to wear so I contacted a local Sikh temple, and they were so kind and hospitable and the boys wore the turbans the next day,” he says.
The Quebec Soccer Federation has said it’s concerned the turbans pose a safety risk. But Leheta says that since a 14-year-old Sikh boy’s hair would likely go to his knees, not wearing a turban would be even more dangerous.
He says he doesn’t agree there are safety concerns.
“This poses no risk to anybody… The turbans are soft and they don’t harm anybody,” he said.
The Quebec organization has defended its decision by noting that FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, doesn't specifically allow turbans. Leheta counters that FIFA's rules don't explicitly allow turtlenecks or gloves on the pitch either, but many players wear those without question.
“But it seems when it’s Sikh boys, it seems to be an issue. And I just find that so unfair. And the boys found it unfair. And I’m so proud of them.
The president of Canada’s World Sikh Organization, Prem Singh Vinning, says there has been no incidents of turbans ever posing a safety risk in soccer games.
“Nowhere has this become an issue,” Vinning told CTV News Channel on Tuesday.
“Sikh children across the world play soccer; this was never a concern.”
For her part, Quebec Premier Pauline Marois defends the Quebec Soccer Federation’s decision.
She said Tuesday that it’s not the place of the Canadian Soccer Association to suspend a provincial soccer federation, that the Quebec soccer body is autonomous, and has a right to establish its own rules.