Soccer player sent off for wearing Islamic head scarf in Australia

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) – A female soccer player was told she could not play for her local team unless she removed her Islamic head scarf, officials said Monday.

Afifa Saad, who has tried out for the Victorian state team, played for the South Melbourne Women’s Soccer Club wearing her white head scarf, or hijab, and long track pants, in accordance with her religion.

The Hijab

“Hijab is the modern name for the practice of dressing modestly, which all practicing Muslims past the age of puberty are instructed to do in their holy book, the Qur’an. No precise dress code for men or women is set out in the Qur’an, and various Islamic scholars have interpreted the meaning of hijab in different ways.”

On Sunday, at a game between South Melbourne and local club Keilor Park, the referee told her she had to remove her scarf or she could not play.

The girl, whose age was not released, refused and after a delay the game was called off.

The Victorian Soccer Federation said it will investigate the incident. Referee development manager Chris Bambridge said the referee could face disciplinary action.

Bambridge said the referee, who had about 12 years of experience, had possibly breached anti-discrimination laws.

“We will be investigating that as part of the ongoing investigation once we have received the referee’s report,” he said.

He said Muslim head scarfs were not against any of the rules of the game.

“There is nothing in the rules . . . there is nothing in the laws of the game that particularly addresses head gear, such as the hijab,” he said.

“It is seen, I believe, by FIFA who are the controlling body that it is an acceptable piece of headwear as long as there are no pins or anything that constitutes a danger to the player herself.”

The girl, who plays either as a striker or goalkeeper, would continue to play until the matter was investigated, Bambridge said.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Canadian Press, Canada
Apr. 26, 2004

Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday April 27, 2004.
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