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Iran, FIFA Clash Over Hijab

Players for Iran's women's national soccer team react after the disqualification announcement in Amman, Jordan, on June 3.
Players for Iran's women's national soccer team react after the disqualification announcement in Amman, Jordan, on June 3.
By RFE/RL
Iran is challenging FIFA's decision to ban its women footballers from playing an Olympic qualifier match because of their Islamic dress.

Iranian football authorities have threatened to sue the FIFA official who barred Iran's national women's football team from playing against Jordan on June 3 due to the Iranian players' full-body outfits, which include hijabs.

The Iranian team was automatically penalized with a 3-0 loss.

Iran says the decision, which fell just moments before the match was due to start in Amman, crushes the team's hopes of competing in the London 2012 Olympics.

"It's very difficult to predict what will come out of this, but I think it's unlikely [we will get redress] because the preliminary games will not be replayed," Farideh Shojai, the head of women's affairs at Iran's football federation, told Reuters. "The countries that spent money and time to play in the second round will not be willing to repeat these games, especially if it becomes clear this week which team will enter the final round."

Shojai said Iranian football officials had not been informed of any new rules ahead of the Olympic qualifying tournament.

She said Iran had made changes to its women's kit after FIFA amended its dress code last year. The new outfit, she claimed, was approved by the federation's president, Sepp Blatter, and used in subsequent matches.

"We sent [FIFA] an e-mail and asked for an explanation. They merely pointed to the fact that they had made an announcement earlier. But we received no letter ahead of these games," Shojai said. "Perhaps they are referring to last year, after which we made the required corrections and played a match afterwards. We were not prevented from playing the next round, they didn't find anything wrong. That meant there were no obstacles for our participation in the Olympics."

Farideh Shojai, vice president of the Islamic Republic of Iran Football Federation (IRIFF) for Women's Affairs



The world federation, however, insists that both Iranian and Jordanian football officials were "informed thoroughly" of the need to comply with its rules on head-covering, which ban so-called "snoods" -- close-fitting headscarves that covers the hair, ears, and neck.

"FIFA's decision in March 2010 which permitted that players be allowed to wear a cap that covers their head to the hairline, but which does not extend below the ears to cover the neck, was still applicable for this qualifying tournament," FIFA said in a statement.

"Despite initial assurances that the Iranian delegation understood this, the players came out wearing the hijab, and the head and neck totally covered, which was an infringement of the Laws of the Game," the statement said.

This is not the first controversy over FIFA's dress rules for women.

Blatter himself came under fire in 2004 after suggesting that female football players don a "more feminine garb" that would include "tighter shorts."

based on RFE/RL and agency reports
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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: John from: San Francisco,CA
June 07, 2011 17:11
I wonder how the athletes feel. I know the team from Norway was upset they couldnt wear viking helmets but they understood the rules and didnt want any conflicts. Too bad for the Iranian womens team they will miss an opportunity to represent their country.
In Response

by: Jamshid from: Bandar Torkaman
June 07, 2011 20:00
Fifa is a private organization. It runs its own rules. If you cannot abide by them, then get lost.
In Response

by: Banafsheh from: New York
June 07, 2011 21:11
Representing our country is one thing, representing however a regime that treats women like second class citizens is another. Frankly, though I'm an Iranian woman and I would love to see these women excel in their athletics, I am remiss at how they cannot stand up for being a woman first and then a footballer. The gender issue here is paramount and that must be where they need to stand up with FIFA against the regime that puts them down.
In Response

by: Morten from: Norway
June 08, 2011 08:55
What is the source of that statement about the viking helmets? As a norwegian that follow womens soccer, this was totally new information for me. I searched in norwegian and english to try and verify what you wrote. there is not even a single link to anything that looks like that statement could come from.

And "viking helmets" (usually with horns on it, something that is historical fabrications) would either have to be made by 1) wood 2) leather 3) plastic.
Only 2) is the only one that would be even possible to assume was in question.

We come from different cultures. Some are ruled by religion, some by force, some by class differences. Do we deny indian teams because the caste system is racists in its nature?
Or do we deny american teams because they have a racist legal system where judges takes money to throw innocent children into slavery in the private prisons?

This is an excuse to make Iran even more ousted then it already is.

They are representing the Iranian people and Iran as a country, meaning they have to obey by the law of their land. Its sad that these old bafoons in FIFA and the other sports-monopolies that we have created (and are in essense destroying the entire sports they are leeching on) are destorying the sports we love.

If this old disgusting man wants to jerk of to female football players, then he should just go to a pr0n site and search up his fetish there. If the players want to play in whatever garmin they chose and it has no danger for the player or others on the field, who really cares?

I know I couldnt care less what cloth people are wearing. Its disgusting that people spend their time condemning a bloody piece of clothing. Whats next, pants for women are offensive and cannot be tolerated anymore?

and to the iranian woman from NY; do all cultures have its flaws and strong sides? Of course they have. Do women get oppressed in certain countries (actually in aprox 100% of all countries)? Of course they do because the old guys running these organizations and politics objectify women as something they can have a boner from.

Women have been oppressed for thousands of years, mainly due to their natural difference in strenght, making us one out of many different species where females are physicly weaker then their oposite sex.

On the other hand, take a spider like the "black widow" where the man is 1/100 of the size of the female, and to finish off their reproduction, the man sacrifices himself as food to the female after the act.

These systems are powerstructures ment to do as every other powerstructure; to control and rule the population.

And make no mistake; I am absolutely non-religious, anti-racist/sexist etc. the species consist of different individuals with different attributes.
In Response

by: azadi from: Kabul
June 12, 2011 09:41
Morten wrote:

American legal racist system? Like... with Barack Obama as the President? Thanks for calling attention to this horrible illegal country that imprisons black people....or makes them President. Maybe you should talk with the black President about this? I know Norway is famous for its treatment of immigrants....wait....they know they can never be president there.

Sad, because you had a normal and valid comment going until then.

by: Anug from: UK
June 07, 2011 18:52
Don't really see how a hijab would put a player in danger. Would like to know FIFA's reasoning behind this. A shame for the team who must've trained so hard.

by: saucymugwump from: USA
June 07, 2011 21:47
Uniforms are . . . uniform. All players on the field are supposed to look the same. All organized sports follow this principle.

For players wearing a headscarf, there are three potential problems:
1) If the player has secured it so tightly that it will never fall off, it might play a part in what is known as "clotheslining," where an opposing player grabs the scarf and causes the player's head to snap back. It is not important whether it is done intentionally or by accident; it is dangerous.
2) We all know how fanatical Muslims are about the clothing for women. Saudi Arabia famously chose to kill girls trying to escape from a burning building by forcing them back into the building because they weren't wearing proper Islamic attire (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/1874471.stm). If a player's headscarf fell off, she would ignore everything until she was able to replace it. And devout Muslims might even run onto the field, disrupting the game, to prevent the world from viewing such an obscene act.
3) Headscarves prevent airflow around the head and retain heat, contributing to heat stroke.

If Muslims want to have teams dressed in proper Islamic attire, then the Islamic world should create its own league where their medieval rules can be enforced.
In Response

by: kikharito from: Indonesia
June 08, 2011 11:43
and we also know how haters gonna hate and how most Americans believe everything the media shows them
Uniforms are uniform yes, but male footballers can wear shirts underneath their kits, or keepers wearing trousers, or wearing headbands, so whats so different about the hijab?
In Response

by: saucymugwump from: USA
June 08, 2011 21:39
kikharito wrote: "and we also know how haters gonna hate and how most Americans believe everything the media shows them"

I much prefer to get my news from a 21st Century person, as compared to a hate-filled book from the 600s.

kikharito wrote: "keepers wearing trousers"

From FIFA rules: "Each goalkeeper must wear colours that distinguish him from the other players, the referee and the assistant referees." Goalkeepers wear trousers to prevent injury from ball-burn, so it is a uniform.

kikharito wrote: "whats so different about the hijab?"

From FIFA rules: "A player must not use equipment or wear anything that is dangerous to himself or another player (including any kind of jewellery)." A hijab could cause clotheslining and therefore it is banned.

I saved the best FIFA rule for last: "The team of a player whose basic compulsory equipment has political, religious or personal slogans or statements will be sanctioned by the competition organiser or by FIFA." The wearing of a hijab is making a religious statement and is therefore banned.
In Response

by: azadi from: Kabul
June 12, 2011 09:43
Saucymugwump, thanks for ending this debate with something everyone on here should read: rules from the rulebook. Particularly that part about no religious symbols. Really just cut through the nonsense on here.

by: Erkin from: U.S.A
June 07, 2011 23:08
What is wrong if someone wants to cover their head when playing soccer. I don't see any rationale behind this decision. FIFA is being political here. It is really a shame to use soccer for political purposes.
In Response

by: Tamim from: kabul
June 08, 2011 09:45
Hi Erkin

Thanks for the rational and sound comment the rest are all idiotic.
In Response

by: azadi from: Kabul
June 12, 2011 09:45
Tamim,

Actually, they aren't. What's idiotic is not understanding how FIFA works, which was already established: no religious gear on the body. I hope you understand that that means headscarves.

by: sabash from: Montreal
June 08, 2011 15:46

When will men STAY OUT OF WOMEN'S WARDROBES??????

Women are exploited in all forms and in all parts/cultures of the world. Its not an issue of faith/religion/culture, these are all political stunts.

Globally women have been (and are being) abused in one form or another, directly or indirectly.

- In the west, the fashion industry, the cosmetics industry etc etc "decides" what women should (or should not) wear. Women live in an "illusion" that they are liberated, when in reality they are not. Its all a facade.
- In the east, male chauvinism, interpretation of religion to suit men (rules made by men) and cultural norms suitable for men oppresses women.

After all, its a man's world!!

Stand up women of the world!!!!
As for men, stay out of women's wardrobes!!!

by: Barlinek from: Canada
June 08, 2011 18:41
Problem with your comment about the women in the west is that at least they have a choice. They can make that choice without the danger of violence or death. (maybe they will be made fun of if not 'in fashion', but that is the extent).

Demanding someone wear a headscarve 'or else' belongs in the caves, not modern society.
In Response

by: sabash from: Montreal
June 08, 2011 21:33
We're all entitled to our own opinions, and I respect yours.

However, your statement "Demanding someone wear a headscarve 'or else' belongs in the caves, not modern society."

FIFA has done the same EXACT thing, only reversing the "or else" part .. "remove your coverings 'or else' .. :-)".

Like I said, its all politics - where we, the common public, are just pawns.
In Response

by: barlinek from: Canada
June 10, 2011 02:10
Fifa did not say "or else"....Those are the rules. its their rules. Fifa should not agree to individual associations making their own rules for proper attire. If Iran does not agree, than don't play.

And insisting women wear headscarves does belong in a cave.

by: ayu from: UK
June 08, 2011 22:08

Dear Morten (Norway) & Erkin (USA),

Thank you for your kind and sound comments...

There is absolutely nothing wrong to play soccer with hijab / headscarf, ...I did that a few times before ... I'm quite sad to read the comment from saucymugwump (USA).... you're are not thinking straight...wearing headscarf or hijab is a religion's requirement, you as a "modern" & "educated" person (I presumed) should know how to respect other people religions... I'm wearing hijab for more than 20 years, never have any problem with my health, so funny to read about the "heat stroke"....obviously, you didn't do your homework...

by: Jim Cripwell from: Canada
June 09, 2011 19:11
Here in Canada, a hijab has been produced which meets the requirements of the Canadian authorities. Maybe people outside Canada dont realize this.

by: Ghazal Omid from: Washington DC
June 09, 2011 22:40
The FIFA decision of not allowing Iranian women to play is a pure discrimination against women. In Islamic countries women struggle to be active. In Afghanistan girls who play football they receive death treats from Al Quaeda. For women who try to stand up for their very little freedom, this decision is only showcases the ignorance of those who pretend to be for Freedom and not understanding the complexity of Middle East issues and more than ever the challenges women of that area face. For those who play this game and many others, the dream of representing their passion and showcase how far they had to reach inorder to show up in the international matches deserves a gold medal by itself. The Fifa decision is a slap to the faces of Iranian women. Regardless of their outfit their actions and efforts is highly admirable. And we all should stand up for their rights to play!

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