Sikh young footballers who want to play football in Quebec while wearing their turbans have been asked to “play in their backyard.”
The Quebec Soccer Federation is insistent that the religious headwear will not be permitted during official matches for the safety of players.
The rules, according to the Associated Press would exempt as many as 200 players from playing in the Canadian province, the only one in the country which enforces the rule.
They can play in their backyard, but not with official referees, not in the official rules of soccer,” Brigitte Frot, director general of the provincial association, told a media conference call when asked what she would say to a five-year-old who wanted to register for a team with their friends. “They have no choice.”
Despite the Canadian Soccer Association’s directive in April, calling for provincial bodies to allow turbans, Frot said the Sikhs would have to table their complaints before FIFA.
“They have to knock at FIFA’s doors,” she said.
Parm Gill, a Conservative MP has written an open letters to both the Quebec and Canadian associations expressing his disappointment at the situation and urging a compromise.
“It’s incredibly unfortunate and insulting that, in a nation that prides itself on diversity, such discriminatory regulations are allowed to stand,” Gill said. “There is no valid reason for a ban on the wearing of turbans or other religious symbols during athletic competitions.
A spokesman for the World Sikh Organisation of Canada Balpreet Singh told the Canadian Press that the organization is exploring its options and it’s considering taking legal actions.
Frot said the organisation was simply taking its cue from FIFA, which does not explicitly state in its regulations that turbans are allowed to be worn during matches of the Muslim hijab after studies into the safety carried out, and also anticipates a similar course of action for turbans.
“We have an obligation as a federation to put player safety first. FIFA has done this work for the hijab and, when they’ve gone it for the turban, I have doubt that FIFA will put out a directive authorising it and we’ll be happy to follow suit,” she added.