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IRAN: Women won’t be able to compete in soccer tournament without hijab

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Iranian women won’t compete in an upcoming soccer match unless the governing board overseeing the game changes a rule barring the Islamic hijab from official matches, Iran’s semi-official Mehr News Agency is reporting.

Iranian officials complain that FIFA -- the acronym for the world’s federation of football associations -- has barred Iran’s women’s soccer team from wearing religious headscarves during the August Youth Olympic Games in Singapore.

FIFA ruled during a meeting in 2007 that the hijab did not adhere to Law 4 of soccer’s governing manual, which states:

‘The basic compulsory equipment must not have any political, religious or personal statements...The team of a player whose basic compulsory equipment has political, religious or personal slogans or statements will be sanctioned by the competition organizer or by FIFA.’

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For now, the rules seem to allow very little wiggle room. ‘A player may use equipment other than the basic equipment provided that its sole purpose is to protect him physically,’ the manual states.

But both the president of Iran’s soccer federation, Ali Kafashian, and the head of its Olympic committee, Bahram Afsharzadeh, have written to international sports authorities to urge them to reconsider the rule, according to Mehr and the Fars News Agency.

Mehr cited Kafashian as saying Iran’s women’s team would participate ‘only if’ allowed to don the hijab.

-- Borzou Daragahi in Beirut


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