Quebec poised to reverse soccer turban ban
MONTREAL - The international body that oversees the rules of soccer says Quebec's Soccer Federation is in the wrong and must allow turbans on the soccer field and as a result, the provincial federation appears ready to reverse its ban at a press conference Saturday.
In a statement published on Friday, FIFA said that it altered international rules in October 2012 to permit head covers until further notice, as long as certain conditions are met.
The statement outlines certain rules for allowing the male headwear on the pitch.
"(FIFA) authorizes the CSA to permit all players to wear head covers ... in all areas and on all levels of the Canadian football community," the statement from the world body reads.
FIFA's regulatory body, the International Football Association Board is analyzing the use of head scarves in soccer games, and that board will discuss the again in October 2013, making a permanent decision in March 2014.
Meanwhile the CSA has notified the Quebec Soccer Federation of FIFA's rules. The CSA also made public a letter sent to the Quebec Soccer Federation in April saying that FIFA's rules permitted head covers.
The Quebec Soccer Federation reacted with a written statement, saying it "accepted with enthusiasm and relief the clarifications made by FIFA."
FIFA has now made it clear that its regulations were changed seven months before the Quebec's soccer organization banned turbans, a decision which QSF claims it was unaware of, despite repeated letters from the CSA informing all provincial soccer associations of the decision.
Regardless, the QSF said it was only waiting "for a clear statement from FIFA on the subject, something we had never received until this moment. The QSF will now, without any delay, adopt FIFA's position."
The QSF says it will officially announce the change in regulation at a news conference at 10 a.m. Saturday.
The World Sikh Organization is very happy with the decision, and expressed its pleasure in a written statement.
"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," said Prem Singh Vinning.
Mukhbir Singh, vice-president for Quebec and the Atlantic region for the World Sikh Organization, says he's thankful for FIFA's stance.
He said the public support has been uplifting and refreshing.
Singh, 25, a Montreal soccer player who has also been forced off the pitch, said it's satisfying to have worked to overturn the ban. He hopes the Quebec federation moves quickly to change its position.
"Whoever is affected by these recent developments, I hope they are all back on the field and no one misses another soccer game," Singh said.
The community event in the city's west end will go on as scheduled.
"Our goal was to rally together in a positive manner, to open a dialogue with the community," Singh said.
"We didn't want it to be a protest or a statement, we want it to be a positive event where we could explain that Sikhs are part of Quebec, we speak French and English and we've been here for a very long time."
FIFA's conditions for head covers
The head cover 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 (e.g. opening/closing mechanism around neck)
HIstory of the dispute
On June 1, 2013, the Quebec Soccer Federation announced it would continue to prohibit soccer players in Quebec from wearing turbans, saying its decision was in line with FIFA regulations.
The Canada Soccer Association immediately chastised the QSF for its decision and said it was incorrect.
The Director-General of the QSF, Brigitte Frot, then said that turbans were dangerous and the prohibition would hold, saying that children who wanted to wear turbans "can play in their backyards but not in official [games] or with a referee."
However when pressed, no member of the QSF managed to explain exactly what danger could be posed by the cloth headcovering.
One week after the QSF made its decision, the national body responsible for soccer in Canada, the CSA, suspended the QSF for violating FIFA regulations. That meant Quebec players were no longer eligible to participate in national or international tournaments, and no sanctioned events could take place in Quebec.
The ramifications of that decision had an immediate effect, with two dozen Ontario teams forced to pull out of a tournament taking place in the West Island this weekend.
The suspension inflamed tensions in Quebec, with Premier Pauline Marois claiming, incorrectly, that the QSF was not subject to the regulations imposed by the CSA.
On June 11 the QSF held an emergency meeting to discuss the suspension and the turban ban, emerging to say they were working toward a solution and hoped to create a dialog with their national counterparts, but would only issue a statement about what they had decided ten days later.