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FIFA Medical Experts Stir Hijab Concerns

Published: 26/05/2012 04:18:42 PM GMT
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BUDAPEST - New evidence from FIFA's medical experts urging to keep the ban on Muslim footballers' hijab in place has deeply shocked FIFA vice president Prince Ali of Jordan, calling the evidence as deeply flawed and had no fo (more)

BUDAPEST - New evidence from FIFA's medical experts urging to keep the ban on Muslim footballers' hijab in place has deeply shocked FIFA vice president Prince Ali of Jordan, calling the evidence as deeply flawed and had no foundation..

"If it is true, I would accept it, but I believe it was without foundation," Prince Ali told reporters, Reuters said.

Prince Ali has been campaigning over the past months to allow headscarf for female Muslim athletes in sports, following a decision to ban players from wearing it in 2007, claiming it is unsafe.

Sports in ISLAM (Special Pages)Hijab: What's It All About?

Six weeks ago, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) allowed women players to wear the hijab, a decision to be ratified later in its meeting next July.

Last Thursday, Michel D'Hooghe of Belgium, the head of FIFA's medical committee, said he would only recommend to the extraordinary IFAB meeting on July 5 in Zurich that extra tests should be carried out on the headscarf.

"We have received some samples and some doctors, including from the Muslim countries, said they (headscarves) represented a danger,” D'Hooghe said after FIFA's two-day medical conference on Thursday.

“When a girl is running at speed someone can hit the head scarf and that can lead to head lesions.”

He said the specially designed velcro-clasping headscarves, were safer than zipped fastenings but there was still room for improvement.

"If tomorrow we receive a proposal and we have no doubt it is medically okay we can give the green light. But to be specific, we have to avoid any problems on the side of the neck or the carotid artery if it gets pulled.

"When you are running and someone pulls it back you can have a hyper-extension of your neck. I wouldn't like to be responsible for that."

Prince Ali, the youngest member of FIFA's executive committee, rejected these claims.

"I was shocked when I heard about Dr D'Hooghe's press conference on Thursday. We covered all the issues raised including heat coming out of the head, breathable material, the neck issue,” he said.

"I was very disturbed by the comments he made. I am usually not very emotional but this is very important.

"There are women serving in combat zones across the world and many of them are wearing the headscarves so I am disturbed by this being used as an argument. All we are asking is for women to be allowed to play football.”

Prince Ali said independent institutes and designers from Netherlands and Canada had presented evidence to D'Hooghe and FIFA's chief medical officer Jiri Dvorak but when the designers were told what happened on Thursday they were equally shocked.

"They asked us what on earth he (D'Hooghe) was talking about," he said.


The new revelations by FIFA's medical official stirred fears that opponents of hijab could use it to block its final approval.

"This affects many, many Muslim women,” Prince Ali said.

“I hope this issue is being treated with the same respect and seriousness that other issues are, for example goal-line technology.”

But Prince Ali added: "I really don't know what all this is all about.

"At the last IFAB, if there was a unanimous decision to allow it, as far as I have seen in consultation with some of the best doctors in the world, there is no reason not to approve it now.

"But I am now concerned that there is no seriousness or desire for testing. Maybe the best thing for Dr D'Hooghe to do is to go and explain his reasons just as I did to IFAB. The issue will certainly not go away."

Prince Ali accepted that further testing may be needed in the future.

"I am hoping, at the very least, IFAB will allow a proper evaluation and that these players will be allowed to play in it on the field. If the medical committee and FIFA wants to monitor further, let them do it,” he said.

"Muslim women can use it at confederation level but they cannot, for example, use it at the highest level in the women's World Cup or the Olympic Games.

"And at any level there have been no reported cases of injuries in Asia and Africa, or anywhere in the world."

In April 2010, FIFA announced that it was planning to ban the Muslim headscarf and other religious outings during the 2012 London Olympics.

Last year, Iran women's football  team were prevented from playing their 2012 Olympic second round qualifying match against Jordan because they refused to remove their hijabs before kickoff.

Iran, who had topped their group in the first round of Olympic qualifiers after going undefeated, were given 3-0 defeats as a penalty which abruptly ended their dreams of qualifying for the London Olympics.

Reproduced with permission from