The Iranian women’s soccer team was in tears after being forced to forfeit a 2012 London Olympics qualifying match this past weekend because it showed up to play in hijabs. FIFA banned the Islamic head scarf in 2007, saying that it could cause choking injuries — the same reason it gave for recently banning snoods (neck warmers). FIFA also has strict rules against any religious statements in team uniforms.
Since Iran refused to comply with these rules and didn’t use the specially designed caps that its 2010 Youth Olympics team wore, Friday’s match was abandoned by officials and a 3-0 win was awarded to Jordan as a result. The Football Federation of Iran said it will complain to FIFA about the ruling, but FIFA says assurances were made beforehand so that this situation would’ve been avoided. From the AP:
“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,” FIFA said in a statement.
Jordan team officials also objected to the hijab rule before the game, but prepared to play by declining to select women who objected on religious grounds.
“The Iranian team and three Jordanian players were also banned from playing because they wore the traditional head cover,” Rana Husseini, head of Jordan’s women’s football committee, told The Associated Press.
“The problem is that the head cover assigned and approved by FIFA for women players to wear does not suit them as it reveals part of the neck and this is not allowed and it is not acceptable,” she said.
Iran also forfeited a second group match against Vietnam on Sunday, seriously damaging its chances of advancing to the London Olympics. It seems unlikely that its federation’s complaints will help its case, though, since these rules are not new and compromises have been made in the past. It’s just a shame these women were put in the middle of this debate between Iran’s federation and FIFA and set up for disappointment.