The hijab scarf — worn by girls and women to observe Islamic dress code — was not allowed under FIFA rules relating to on-field equipment, the Asian Football Confederation said. Despite the urging of Iran’s national Olympic committee for the ban to be reviewed by the International Olympic Committee, the Iranian under 18 girls soccer squad will not be participating in the coming youth Olympics this August.
In response to criticism regarding the decision, FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke, referenced soccer’s international rulebook which contains a section on player equipment, stating that “basic compulsory equipment must not have any political, religious or personal statements.”
This is a peculiar problem for FIFA and soccer worldwide. The intent of the law was clearly to avoid religious persecution and problem by removing one potential source. Insisting that all teams wear uniforms that do not express religious or political opinions or agendas of any kind would normally help in that regard, but in this case the tolerance policy proves to be remarkably intolerant.
The best team from the Asian Football conference will not be playing in the tournament and it will be so because of a law that forces one side or the other to bend. FIFA has shown that they will not, and the Iranian Football Federation (F.F.I.R.I) certainly will not either. All in all, the whole thing is unfortunate as a team of hopeful young athletes who earned a spot in the Olympics will sit at home.
Iran was to have taken part in a six-nation tournament for girls at the inaugural competition in Singapore on Aug. 12-25. About 3,600 athletes, ages 14 to 18, will compete in 26 sports.
Thailand will now represent Asia in Iran’s stead against Turkey, Equatorial Guinea, Trinidad and Tobago, Chile and Papua New Guinea.