TORONTO: The Quebec Soccer Federation (QSF) on Saturday lifted ban on Sikh players wearing turbans on soccer pitches.
The QSF was suspended on June 10 by the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) for refusing to revoke the ban. The Quebec ban violated the CSA’s directive to all Canadian provincial and territorial federations and associations to let players with turbans or other forms of headgear to play soccer.
Facing imminent isolation, the QSF said on Saturday that it was rolling back the ban on turbans, patkas and keski after getting clarification from the Fédération Internationale de Football Association or FIFA.
Making this announcement at its headquarters in Laval, QSF executive-director Brigitte Frot said now that FIFA has clarified their ambiguity about the rules, the Quebec soccer body would direct referees to let players with turbans and other head coverings play.
Frot, who had said after the ban that those who don’t want to follow rules “can play in their backyard’’, said she was sorry if their action has offended anyone. About 200 Sikh players were impacted by the Quebec ban.
She blamed miscommunication for the escalation of issue into a religious debate. “We have had trouble communicating our intentions to the public, especially in recent days. If we offended or shocked people – particularly in the English community – we want you to know that it wasn’t intentional and we want to make a sincere apology for that,’’ the Quebec Soccer Federation chief said.
Frot said the QSF was happy that the “FIFA was able to answer our questions and remove any ambiguity.’’ She added, “Our goal was always to have confirmation that the wearing of a turban was allowed by FIFA. ‘’
The Canadian Soccer Association also announced to revoke suspension of the Quebec Federation immediately.
In a statement, Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) president Victor Montagliani, said, “As the governing body of soccer in Canada we will continue to take all necessary measures to ensure the integrity of our game, our membership, and players.’’
Welcoming the end of the Quebec ban on Sikh players, NDP leader Tom Mulcair said, “On behalf of all New Democrats, I welcome the Quebec Soccer Federation’s decision to repeal its ban on Sikh religious headgear.’’
In a statement, the NDP leader said, “On April 25 2013, members of the New Democratic caucus wrote to FIFA urging a clarification, so that children could return to the soccer fields. Today, that clarification was provided.’’
Prem Singh Vinning, president of the World Sikh Organization (WSO), also hailed the decision. In a statement, Vinning said, “While it has been our position from the outset that the accommodation of the turban should not hinge on FIFA rules but instead on our Canadian rules and law and on our tradition of diversity and acceptance, this announcement is certainly good news. It is now absolutely clear that there should be no restriction on the wearing of the turban by Sikh players.”
As per FIFA rules, the headcover must:
- be of the same colour as the jersey
- be in keeping with the professional appearance of the player’s equipment
- not be attached to the jersey
- not pose any danger to the player wearing it or any other player