Just days after soccer’s international governing body FIFA allowed Muslim female players to wear headscarves during matches, a nine-year-old Quebec girl was sent off the pitch in Gatineau for wearing a hijab.
Rayane Benatti was told she could not play in this weekend’s tournament at a local park because her headscarf was a safety hazard.
“I’m sad,” Rayane told CTV Ottawa.
“I don’t want to accept it because she’s a child who just wants to play,” said her mother, Fatima-Zohra Elmarhoum.
But the regional soccer association said it was just following safety rules and will continue to do so until FIFA specifies what types of hijabs are allowed on the field.
“The hijab is now approved, however, you need to know what’s the material, what’s the contents, what it’s going to look like. We don’t have that,” Marc St-Amour of the l’Outaouais soccer association told CTV Ottawa.
For years, the International Football Association Board (IFAB), which sets soccer rules, and various soccer organizations have argued that hijabs are unsafe because players can be injured if the scarves are pulled during a game.
FIFA has also long banned religious symbols on the soccer pitch.
But critics charged that the hijab ban was rooted in Islamophobia, preventing thousands of Muslim girls and women from participating in the sport.
Last week, FIFA reversed the hijab ban that had been enforced for five years after IFAB concluded that two headscarf designs submitted for consideration are safe to wear.
The approved designs use Velcro fasteners and light magnets that allow the headscarves to unravel easily if pulled, preventing the player from choking.
But IFAB won’t approve specific designs, colour and appropriate materials until its annual meeting in October.
“Until they tell us what they think it should be, it’s status quo for us,” St-Amour said.
It’s not the first time Muslim soccer players have run into trouble over hijabs in Quebec. In 2007, a young girl was ejected from a soccer tournament for donning a headscarf and last year, a Montreal-area teenager was told she couldn’t referee games while wearing the hijab.
With a report from CTV Ottawa’s Ellen Mauro