Will This Never End? "No Turbans On The Pitch"

By: Shireen AHMED
In the last couple of months, I have written extensively and covered the issue of IFAB lifting the ban on hijabs on the pitch. As a footballer who chooses to wear hijab this issue was terribly personal and very important to me.
I have been playing for decades and am elated that Muslim players may now be included in international and FIFA sanctioned competition.
Even more recently, I was thrilled to find out that Quebec had rescinded and was going to be the last province to allow hijab on the pitch. For a variety of reasons the Quebec Soccer Federation (QSF) had been most reluctant to accept the ruling despite the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) encouraging lifting of the ban; as most other provinces had already done.
Fortunately, they could no longer pretend that their decisions were based on player safety and equality when IFAB struck down the ban in July 2012 and a FIFA-approved hijab was designed by a woman living in Montreal.
I was happy for the sport and for the opportunity for more women to participate in the beautiful game. I figured that the issue of headcoverings in the football world was now moot.
Not exactly.

Late last week, I discovered that, once again, Quebec has banned headcoverings from the pitch. Not hijabs but to my disgust...Sikh turbans.  
In traditional form Quebec has disallowed sikh turbans from the pitch despite directives from the the CSA to allow them. The QSF is a provincial body that governs the sport in its’ province. Some have questioned why the CSA can’t simply overrule the provincial body as they have been advocating for equal access for all players.
Unfortunately, the CSA can not interfere in issues of sport as they fall under provincial jurisdiction. CSA is the national body that is in charge of National programs and teams and represents Canada on the international level to FIFA and in CONCAF.
Not only will QSF not issue a statement, they refuse to address the issue before registration of the summer season begins.
The issue of the inclusion of religious clothing in sport has been percolating in Quebec for awhile. The impermissibility of hijab on the pitch garnered much attention in mainstream media in recent years since the Iran National Women’s squad was rejected from Olympic qualifying matches in June 2011, due to their hijabs.
At the same time in Quebec, there was a young Sikh player who was barred from playing with his turban. The incidents were not widely reported and infrequent.
And remained unresolved.
In May 2012, a teenager from a Montreal suburb registered to play in Lasalle.
Although he had already been playing for ten years, he was informed that he would have to lose his turban and play with a FIFA-sanctioned hairnet or not register at all. “It’s pretty degrading to do that because the whole point of turban is to cover your head” said Aneel Singh Samra.
He got his money back and did not play.
It seems as if this will be his fate and those of other Sikhs in Quebec this summer. Another season lost where they can’t play due to their decision to wear a headcovering out of religious observation.
Ironically, the Federal Minister of Sport in Canada is a Sikh from the riding of Bramalea-Gore-Malton. Minister Bal Singh Gosal has yet to issue a statement on this topic.
I think it is imperative that he, as the elected represented now holding the portfolio for State Sport in Canada contact the appropriate authorities of football in Quebec and request that this matter be resolved quickly.
FIFA must also address this issue and clarify that there is no issue for injury (the cited problem in the case of hijab) as the traditional turbans to not cover the neck of players.
Furthermore, there is no obvious “advantage” for turban wearers for heading the ball. Regardless of which as heading the ball is not obligatory in football. 
This is a technicality that the QSF is hiding behind.
A colleague and friend of mine, Baljit Rihal explained: “Usually, Sikh boys (with unshorn hair) adorn a bandana like headcovering called a 'Patka'. This in effect is a mini turban and poses absolutely no safety threat to either the player or their opponents. Sikhs have been playing football across the world for many years without this ever being subject to a ban. I was born and brought up in London, UK and wore the patka whilst playing through school and even whilst trialling at county level football - the head covering was never an issue.” Rihal, who is founder of the prestigious Asian Football Awards, an initiative that recognizes the achievements of South Asians in Football, is clearly disappointed with the decision.
Football is a game that brings communities together. The actions of the Quebec Soccer Federation can only be described as ludicrous and an attempt to exclude a community that have given so much to Canada. The Canadian Soccer Association has issued directives that Sikh's wearing the turban should not be banned from playing - it is beyond me why the QSA is not adhering to the country's policy. That is, in effect, like a UK County Football Association over ruling guidelines from The English FA,” he adds.
Until QSF issues a full statement explaining their reasons for banning the turban, it seems that young players are in an unfair limbo. They can’t fully contest a case if they don’t know what that case is.
The issue of proper uniform and kits in sport stinks more of political issue laced with xenophobia than of the safety and equality of players.
Is it necessary for a Sikh designer to create a particular prototype for Punjabi players?
How many more years of wasted time will continue until this bigotry and unnecessary prevention of participation is stopped?
World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) President Prem Singh Vinning issued a very sincere statement regarding the ban: “We fail to see what is so complicated about allowing Sikh children to play with their peers. What purpose does the QSF restriction on the turban serve? There is no conceivable justification for this. If there are genuine concerns, we are open to dialogue but if this situation is not quickly resolved, the real victims will be the children”.
As a footballer who wears a headcovering and was subject to rules that excluded me from playing with recognized clubs, I will not tolerate further prejudice and discrimination from Quebec on an issue that should have been shelved many years ago.
Football is for all of us.
crossposted at http://footynions.com/


First Afghan Women's Cycling Team Sets Sights on Rio

There’s nothing like hopping on your bike for a sweat-drenching trek through the woods, cruise in the park, or ride around town—but would you risk your life for your two-wheeler? For women in Afghanistan, riding a bike is one step above committing a crime, but Shannon Galpin, founder of the nonprofit Mountain2Mountain and the 2013 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year, is hoping to change that.
When Galpin, a 38-year-old former Pilates instructor from Breckenridge, CO, learned about the war-torn country's first-ever national women's cycling team last fall, she immediately jumped at the chance to help out—after all, she became the first woman to mountain bike through the Afghan countryside in 2009.
So she’s helping supply the 45 young, budding road riders (they're all so new to cycling, they haven't even learned to clip in yet) with nutrition products, apparel, and gear, including 10 to 12 Liv/Giant road bikes this year. Galpin’s also making trips to Afghanistan to help local Coach Seddiq teach some skills to the 16- to 20-something-year-olds and to film “Afghan Cycles,” a 20-minute documentary about the women’s team directed by Sarah Menzies (check out their cool Kickstarter page).
Just hours before boarding a plane for her twelfth trip to Afghanistan, Galpin chatted with us about her mission and the girls’ chance to qualify for 2016 Olympics in Rio.
RELATED: Be inspired by eight women who shape the world.
SHAPE: What brought you to Afghanistan in the first place?
SHANNON GALPIN (SG): It's one of the worst places in the world to be a woman. I was unhappy with how I saw the conversation in Afghanistan developing between the Americans and Afghans, and I really wanted to change everyone's perception. At that point, I had worked around the world and I knew that I was really good at creating something from nothing, so I thought why don’t I? It was pretty much an overnight decision to launch Mountain2Mountain there six years ago.

SHAPE: Why biking?
SG: When I first started traveling to Afghanistan five years ago, there were no women biking. It wasn't even a thought. The bike came into play because I’m a mountain biker and it’s an incredibly beautiful country. I decided to push the gender barrier and ride a bike as a foreign woman to challenge the idea of what it is to be a woman. My actions ended up sparking conversations along the way. It was a great icebreaker, so I continued to ride every trip.

RELATED: The best advice 28 powerful women ever got can help give you the boost you need to start working toward your goals.
SHAPE: Did you have a hand in forming the national women's cycling team?
SG: No, and that’s the beauty of it—it’s fully Afghan-driven; it's not a Western project. I think they started about a year ago. My involvement is to look at what these women are doing and support them, as well as the men’s team. The stronger the men’s team is, the stronger the women’s team will be because they need the men’s team to help them break through. The women’s team is risking much more—this is a major taboo in their culture—but the men's team is paving the way for a brand new sport in a country that's all about soccer.

SHAPE: How has the Afghan community received the female cycling team so far?
SG: There’s no formal ban, but it's just that so few women ride. There’s too little encouragement and it’s culturally not acceptable: Riding a bike is essentially one step above the morality crimes that women are jailed for. It's worse than driving a car, which women have only just started to learn to do in Afghanistan. This is why we're planning to film these women in “Afghan Cycles.” We want to capture the back story of their motivation. They are literally risking their lives to ride a bike—something we take for granted. The women on this cycling team are willing to put themselves out there—on the frontlines—to start a movement. They will bear the weight of what is currently viewed as obscene, controversial, and offensive. These girls are trailblazers. They're braver than anyone I know. The least that we can do is support them.

SHAPE: How will going to the 2016 Olympics change things?
SG: If they go to the Olympics, it would be a very big thing in Afghanistan. There is such nationalistic pride for your athlete. Your whole country rallies behind you. It does not mean that it would suddenly become acceptable, but it's a starting point, for sure.

SHAPE: Think they have a real shot?
SG: It is a really short period of time to get ready, but there is a lot of support coming together right now from Mountain2Mountain, my connections in Colorado, and the International Olympic Committee. People from all over—including those who have worked with Olympians as well as Olympians themselves—are moved by these girls and starting to find ways to get more involved.

SHAPE: How can SHAPE readers help?
SG: We're trying to raise money (donate here!) to support the racing and traveling costs. But I understand that it may be a lot easier to collect gear than to raise donations. If you would like to donate cycling items—bikes (road and mountain), cleats/pedals combinations, shoes, indoor trainers, air pumps (standing and portable), rain jackets, sunglasses and helmets—please ship them to P.O. Box 7399, Breckenridge, CO 80424. That would be a huge help, thank you!

Photo credit: Claudia Lopez
Source: http://www.shape.com/blogs/shape-your-life/first-afghan-womens-cycling-team-sets-sights-rio

The Palestine Marathon: Promoting freedom of movement

The West Bank's first marathon took place in Bethlehem to promote human rights and tell an alternative story to one of conflict and war. 
On Sunday 21 April 2013, 650 runners from 28 countries gathered around the Church of the Nativity, which was transformed into an international sports arena for the day, to run run 5, 10, 21.1 or 42.2 kilometers in the hilly streets of Bethlehem, before returning to an uphill finish at the starting point. Palestinians, of which many were running their first official race, made up close to 70 per cent of runners and finished in the top three places.

In the week leading up to the race, word got around that the streets would be closed down on the course that featured refugee camps, Olive fields, the Wall and lots of local shops. Many people gathered to get a grasp of the test of human endurance going on in their streets.

High number of female runners
37 per cent of runners were women. The high number of female participants is a feat for the organisers, who had made great efforts locally to get women to run. Jacky Ka, a 24 year old women and first time half marathon finisher, who helped organise weekly training runs in the West Bank, says she is proud not only of her own performance, but also of the many women involved: “Running up the final hill, I felt so exhausted, but also so proud and full of energy. Running is new to me - it is new to Palestinians - but I believe we will get a lot more women next year. I can’t wait.

Danish women organisers Signe Fischer and Lærke Hein, who got the idea to create a marathon in Palestine two years ago, hugged with a huge sigh of relief and great pride, as the marathon was well underway, and it became clear that their efforts had paid off: “We did this to tell a different story than the one of conflict and war, and I think I can safely say that we were successful.

Registration for next years Palestine Marathon will open shortly on the Right to Movement website .
[This article has been edited by the Operating Team of sportanddev.org.]
Source: http://www.sportanddev.org/?5589/The-Palestine-Marathon-Promoting-freedom-of-movement

Report on Poor Sport Facilities in Iran

A TV report on poor sports facilities for women in Iran. Girls in Birjand who have been able to be members of national athletics team, practice in non-standard facilities. Iranian sports activists have been complaining about government's reluctance to financially support women's sport.
Source: http://en.iranresaneh.com/?p=493


Muslimah Boston Marathon Runner: “I am heartbroken that so many innocent people were hurt.”

April 16, 2013
In an interview with ICNA.org, Jalon Fowler, a Muslim participant of the Boston Marathon relates her experience.

I have always dreamed of running the Boston  
Marathon; I have grown up seeing others in the Boston area train and prepare for the marathon.  Three years ago, I finally took the plunge and joined my company’s Marathon Training Program. 
I also very much wanted to give back to the community and, therefore, became a charity runner for the Boys & Girls Club of Boston and the Ron Burton Training Village. Both organizations serve inner city and under-served youth.
The Challenge
I trained for over six months for this race. I did a lot of running with my company’s Employee Training Program, local running groups and with friends. We ran through rain, wind and snow. We also did many 5 am runs, two half marathon races and several 16, 18 and 20 mile runs. I kept up with the training through busy times at work, sick kids and other life events. I remained committed because training for a marathon is simply something you put your heart and soul and believe that you get out of it what you put into it.
Charity, helping others, and being the best emotional, spiritual and physical person are major parts of being a Muslim. The marathon allowed me to strive towards these all of these goals.
The Experience
This was my third Boston Marathon and I was on pace for my best finish to-date. However, the dream ended at mile 21 when the race was shut down due to explosions at the finish line. At this point, we were all quickly ushered off the course and told that, in addition to the finish line explosions, there were several suspicious packages being investigated.
We were all heartbroken, devastated and scared by this news. During this time, we hugged each other and shared cell phones to contact loved ones. Thankfully, my husband and two young children were with me at mile 21. Since our car was close by, we drove a fellow stranded runner home. Unfortunately, my other family members were waiting for me at the finish line when the explosions happened and had to run for safety.
I am heartbroken, that so many innocent people were hurt. This beautiful day was scarred by this tragedy. I am thankful that my family was safe.
My Message
I put my heart and soul into training and raising money for The Boys and Clubs of Boston and The Ron Burton Training Village and can’t believe it ended in such a tragic way. I love Boston. I love the Boston running community. I can’t wait to proudly run these streets again. I will run the Boston Marathon until my body cannot take it anymore, God willing, for those that cannot.
I pray that whoever is responsible for these horrific acts are brought to justice. It was no doubt an act of cowardice and evil.
Jalon Fowler lives near Boston with her husband and 3 children 
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