FIFA Overturns Headscarf Ban for Female Soccer Players


Written by Anna Bahr

FIFA, the international governing body of soccer, has agreed to overturn its controversial ban on the wearing of hijabs during games. The organization instituted the regulation in 2007, as the formal rules of the sport prohibit equipment that make a religious statement or pose a danger to players.

Referring to the garb as “headscarves” rather than “hijabs” in order to escape accusations of religious discrimination and highlight physical safety concerns, the deciding panel approved the reversal after the organization’s medical committee approved two scarf designs that do not compromise player safety. Presented by FIFA vice president, Prince Ali Bin al Hussein, who led a year-long campaign for reversal of the ban, the sport-safe scarves use Velcro fasteners and magnets. Other sports, including rugby and taekwondo, already allow women to wear hijabs during competition.

The repeal was greeted with mixed reviews. The French Football Federation rejected the ruling, stating that it intends to, “respect the constitutional and legislative principles of secularism” in France, the first state to publicly outlaw the hijab.

Qatar (slated to be the host country for the 2022 Olympics), Iran and Kuwait, among other countries, expressed relief at the revision. The United Nations, which also supported the campaign to overturn the ban, described equal access to soccer for all women as an imperative to demonstrate the range of possibilities for women who wear the hijab.

FIFA banned the Iranian women’s national team from competing in a qualifying match for the London Olympics last year because of their hijabs. The team designed special scarves that wrapped tightly around their heads, but FIFA wouldn’t budge. The ban specifically disadvantages women in both Iran and Saudi Arabia, where they are required by law to cover their heads.

Removing one’s headscarf is, for many, a demand that conflicts with personal conviction, not necessarily an imposed religious constraint. Though the international presence of the hijab has come to symbolize women’s oppression and limited personal freedom, banning the hijab is a more invasive, deep-reaching policy than its surface prohibition.

This post was originally published by Ms. Magazine.


Related Stories:

8 Stories of “Vanishing” Muslim Women

Saudi Arabia to Let Women Compete at Olympics

First Female Olympian from Qatar to Compete


Photo: The Man In Blue/flickr


rational person marcus
m h.4 years ago

@ Nick
Are you suggesting islam is not a political framework? Read the koran, hidiths and shariah law and highlight all non-spiritual bits outlining DOs and DONTs. You'll run out of highlighters.
Does not affect me? Criminal violence is on the rise, and statistics consistently show the majority of violent crimes and rapes are conducted by muslim immigrants. Listen to imams THEMSELVES outlining their hate for and plan to overthrow their host countries. Look at any Muslim country and see the discrimination against non-muslims and females. With more and more coming to my country, how would this NOT affect me?
You CAN compare holding on to religious culture since the Koran CLEARLY outlines non-muslims, gays and anyone criticizing islam should be killed. Just read the bloody koran for yourself. Headscarves is a sign you DO agree with islam. You cant cherry pick. If headscarves are allowed, so should swastikas etc be.
You hear more about killing gays and Jews from other religions, secularists, humanists and atheists? Show me.
Scared of brown ppl? Try some other stupid assumption, pls.

Sandra L.
Sandra Lewis4 years ago

Also, I applaud France for banning the headscarves in favor of secularism in government. The US needs to get back to its secularist roots, as well.

Sandra L.
Sandra Lewis4 years ago

Take off your shameful scarves and show your faces. You are simply not that special.

Nick J.
Nick J.4 years ago

Rational Person: Despite your name, your post seems pretty irrational. Nazism isn't a spiritual belief, it's a political framework. In fact, Hitler (and most Nazis) identify as Christian. You can't compare someone holding onto a part of their religious culture (that does not affect you IN ANY WAY) with vocally and enthusiastically saying you want to Kill Jews and Gays. Because, dude, I hear that from a lot more CHRISTIANS than I ever do Islam. In fact, MOST of what you wrote can be said about almost ANY longstanding religion. Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, Muslim. You're just scared of the big, bad, brown people.

LMj Sunshine

Interesting article and comments, thank you.

LMj Sunshine

Interesting article and comments, thank you.

Karen K.
Karen K.4 years ago

Shouldn't be banned or required. In the end though, better to have more women participating in sports.

rational person marcus
m h.4 years ago

Suppose I say "I like nationalism. I don't like Jews. I want my ideology to spread worldwide. I am convinced that the right thing to do with homosexuals is to execute them. I use violence to spread my ideology. Children should be indoctrinated from birth with my ideology, through books portraying Jews as the evil of the world." Am I likely to be a christian, hindu, budhist, or (god forbid!) a humanist or even an atheist? Or am I likely to be... Hmm... Let's think... A Nazi... Or... an islamist? if we make an exception for headscarves, I should be allowed to wear swastikas on display when I play football. if you claim headscarf is important for you to wear due to your beliefs, I also have the right to show my beliefs. How anyone would want to represent this violent suppressive supremacist ideology is beyond me. Ban it, and ban anything else that has to do with this utterly disgrace to humankind called islam!

Will Rogers
Will Rogers4 years ago

 The hijab is still a yoke around these women's necks and a reminder of their oppression. One day theyll be free but until then? ...They will not be winning any medals, not against people who can play in the sunlight, with the sun on their skin giving them valuable vitamins. Whenever I see one of these covered women waddling around beneath their portable tents, looking like overweight ninjas, the first words that come to my mind are; Ricketts and Kwashiorkar. Vitamin D deficiencies caused by not getting enough sunlight. Stupid religion, stupid religions, their stupid prophet was a totally misguided, unknowledgeble control freak, a megalomaniac with empirical ambitions, and a fool for oppressing arguably more than half of the intelligence of their populations. There should be no bending of the rules to accommodate them, they should change and get in step with the rest of the world and stop oppressing women! There should be no compromise. ...And take the world cup soccer tournament away from them until they give women equal rights. There is a parallel here in the apartheid state of south Africa. There were necessary cultural sanctions imposed on S.A. I just wish they'd do the same for these oppressive regimes.

Jessica Peng
Jessica Peng4 years ago

Lee W. - I appreciate your clarification, and your defense of Marie's post. I certainly didn't mean to imply that she has no basis from which to argue. Being that we can't actually see one another here, and that (I presume) we don't actually know one another here (beyond how our online personas present to one another), I don't actually know who has what sort of background on the subject matter. For all I know, Marie is Muslim; or has known Muslim women who've had to (or chose to) wear hijab; or perhaps has intensively studied Muslim culture; or otherwise would have a fairly well-informed perspective from which to engage the topic. I was, honestly, looking to see if such was the case. I personally have only peripheral experience with Islamic culture (I've gone to school with several women who were Muslim and wore hijab); I would utterly enjoy the opportunity to engage in a dialogue with any Muslim woman (or man) to see what I can learn.

But Marie being Muslim, etc., or not, I wanted to open my address to her with a sort of "get to know you" type question, so that it was understood that I'm not simply arguing because I feel one way and she feels another. I wanted to pay respect to her reasons for feeling the way she does.

(Am I making any sense? I have a tendency to ramble...)