Unveiling Hijab on the Pitch
This morning I woke up to find out that a design submitted by designer in Montreal Elham Sayed Javad was accepted by IFAB as an acceptable FIFA-approved model for a headscarf.
This means that we may soon be seeing hijabs on the pitch. It will open up the doors of competition and inclusion for thousands of potential footballers and extend opportunity for existing players.
I have been playing football for almost 30 years.This decision is a victory for me, my daughter and her daughters.
It is also a victory for the sport.
Football is a game that unites countries in turmoil, strangers in fandom and creates development and cooperation between nations and communities that may not otherwise have a connection.
Most important is signifies the importance of choice. If a woman wishes to wear hijab and still participate at a high level, she is not restricted from doing so.
The world is abuzz with many people philisophizing and making assumptions about women in hijab. There are questions to its’ relevance in this country, the impositions of the Eastern world and its’ representation of patriarchy and oppression.
The core issue of hijab in football isn’t about religion. It’s about opportunity, right to wear and respect.
Whether a player wears a turban, is adorned with tattoos of the Holy Trinity or wears a Star of David is quite frankly irrelevant.
Their personal choice to believe in a faith and practice can not be a reason to eliminate them from play. Particularly now that there has been a hijab-designed to meet all safety criteria that IFAB requires.
My football uniform consists of my hijab as much as it does my jersey and my boots. I don’t use pins - just a stretchable cotton with another piece underneath, so my current club allowed me to play.
I even bought a branded athletic shirt and stitched it to my liking as the material had wicking fabric suitable for intense matches.
For a very long time after I chose to wear hijab, I was excluded from playing in regular FIFA and Canadian Soccer Association sanctioned-clubs. Most local clubs decided to avoid the issue and although they were independent, FIFA said “NO” so they could do the same. They cited various reasons; everything from players safety to non-permissibility of religious symbols to simply ‘we aren’t sure- so no’. Some clubs decided it was up to the referee to decide leaving players and teams quite frustrated without a firm answer.
Each provincial football body may have varying levels of deference to FIFA’s hijab ban which was strictly imposed in 2007 as a neck-safety precaution. Many argue Law 4 of FIFA it is about racism and xenophobia as opposed to safety.
Thankfully, I found a fantastic club in my area devoted to Youth Soccerand eventually I became the convener for the women’s division. There was all level of skill- ranging from varsity elite to beginner.
Because there were no restriction on type of hijab, many different women decided to join. They felt less judged and accepted. No concerns regarding eligibility due to hijab.
For those who are much more competitive and looking for serious football, it may have been frustrating at times. A good run in an enjoyable environment but not the full organization and competition they may have craved. But the only option available. Not anymore thanks to ResportOn’s Pro Release design. It uses tiny magnets that can be released quickly, as opposed to velcro and uses dry fit materials. It has met all medical standards and criteria by IFAB.
The prototype of this headscarf was thoroughly researched, tested and re-tested. It is also affordable.
I had a few concerns regarding the initial IFAB approval. One of which was accessibility and price.
Had the scarf been designed by a large multinational company, then the product may have been too expensive for a young girl to purchase. That would had further isolated many girls from communities. Thus creating an atmosphere of privilege.
Thus far ResportON hijabs are approx $60 CDN. Hopefully the price for the new design will not be much higher. For highly competitive Muslim athletes, that can be considered as necessary as their football boots and shin guards; a part of their kit. Not a clothing item that would have to be purchased too frequently- depending on the amount of play and product care.
A large company may have tried to sell the hijab at a high-end price rendering the product which is suppose to include a minority football playing demographic, unattainable.
Another issue of concern would be whether now that a specific hijab is permitted on-field,
would all Muslim players representing Muslim countries be required or expected to wear it?
Part of the philosophy of women in sport is choice, freedom and the health benefits of play.
Forcing a woman to wear a headscarf because it is permissible by FIFA rules, would go against the spirit of women playing football.
The importance of choice whether it be to play or to wear hijab are inextricably linked.
The operative word being choice.
Now many more women around the world from varying parts will be able to represent their country in international play. The do not have to feel they have to choose between observing a part of their faith they feel is mandatory or choosing their passion for football.
There are Muslim women participating at International levels but until now, they were not permitted to play in FIFA sanctioned tournaments or games wearing a headscarf.
The result of that was equating hijab with an inability to advance to the highest level of women’s football in the world.
When FIFA issues a formal statement and introduction of said hijab, smaller clubs, national and provincial Football Organizations should follow suit and adopt a policy that they disregarded or previously avoided delving into.
Hijab-wearing women could represent Iran, Canada, France, Germany, England, Turkey, China, Afghanistan and even the United States at high levels.
It will allow give way to younger girls and women being allowed to play in recreational and /or in semi-competitive leagues. It will open the idea to have women participate and join in whereby living fuller, healthier lifestyles and sharing interests.
The fact that will be far more women at trials for various clubs and communities is hugely important. Increases competition and awareness of equality within sport.
The optics of a Muslim women competing is a powerful thing. This summer the London Olympics had many Muslim women represented as participants. In fact it was the first time every nation competing had females athletes- including Muslim countries that had previously not had female competitors.
Now many Muslim countries can compete with full squads in football to what has already become an incredibly exciting sport to watch.
Canada is hosting the Women’s World Cup in 2015. It will be a time of excitement, welcome and more attention to the World’s game- particularly the Women’s game. At that point FIFA would have fully allowed the participation of strong teams on which players wear hijab: Egypt, Iran, Yemen; rendering this a more inclusive, open and accessible sport.
I wait for a final statement from IFAB with some trepidation.
The implications of this are huge for women in the world today. Many footballers will not have to watch from the sidelines anymore.
To have Muslim women participate in the beautiful game, the world’s most popular sport, shall only heighten the majesty of the world of football which may now include all types of women- hijabi footballers included.
Picture via Meera Sethi: http://meerasethi.blogspot.ca/2011/07/introducing-fifa.html
Football's world governing body FIFA met to decide the design of the official hijab for women.
The traditional Islamic headscarf was approved for use in July by the governing body, allowing women to wear a sport-specific headscarf.
And there has been a competition on how the hijabs will look like.
This interview takes place before the decision with Montreal based fashion designer Elham Sayed Javad hopes her design, one of the two studied on soccer fields around the world, gets the approval.
Today she announced the good news with her fans that one of her designs receives approval.
Today she announced the good news with her fans that one of her designs receives approval.
Javad called her prototype's role in the decision the "biggest thing that I could have achieved".
Her soccer hijab uses a custom-made magnetic system that allows it to be opened and released instantly, if the headscarf is pulled from anywhere around the neck.
Al Jazeera's Daniel Lak reports from Montreal.
LONDON: London Mayor Boris Johnson has thanked thousands of Muslim Londoners for helping to deliver the successful London Olympics through full participation and for bringing pride to Britain.
The newly-elected London mayor invited leading representatives from London’s Muslim communities to an evening reception at City Hall to celebrate Eidul Azha as well as to thank the Muslims for winning medals, volunteering and being part of the preparations and celebrations of the games.
“This year has been amazing for Britain due to the Olympics. We saw Muslims of all ages took part in these games as London team ambassadors, game-makers, volunteers who helped us to deliver the greatest Olympics games ever. There were Muslims everywhere. There were Muslim athletes who brought sheer amazement to the games through their courage and endurance,” Johnson told the audience.
Boris said the greatest moment of the games came when Mohammad Farah won two medals for Britain and united the whole country in a way never seen before. “This is a guy who came to London at the age of 8 from Somalia, saw terrible times in Somalia, he is now a national hero, he’s a Muslim and it’s a fantastic thing. There was a unanimous support from this country for a young Muslim. This place has changed in our lifetime and it has changed for better.”
He said that lot of work needs to be done to fight Islamophobia and improve attitudes towards Muslims and the legacy of the 2012 Olympics is aimed at helping this process. He said the arrears around the Olympics venue, where thousands of Pakistanis live, is undergoing a massive regeneration but at the larger scale the legacy will result into a cohesive culture, improved transport and better services for all. He said he would like to see “more participation in sport in our city by young Muslim boys and girls”.
Senior Foreign Office minister Baroness Sayeeda Warsi told the audience that Muslims had played their role in Britain’s national life starting from the World War 1 and continue to do so with passion. She said Pakistanis were prominent in the wars that were fought for Britain but they were also instrumental in reviving and rebuilding Britain’s economy in late 60s and 70s.
She pointed to the problems of Islamophobia and racism nearly 3 million Muslims in Britain face and thought that this country can become a better place when these challenges can be dealt with. She said she “fought” for her job in the FCO which also makes her responsible in relation to faith communities and how faith communities can be helpful in the progress of “our multi-cultural society”.