NEW YORK - The United Nations has joined a chorus of calls for the football's governing body to overturn a ban on the wearing of the Muslim headscarf (hijab) on pitch.
"It would give the opportunity for remarkable female athletes to demonstrate that wearing the headscarf is not an obstacle to excelling in life and sports, and would hence contribute to challenging gender stereotypes and bringing about a change in mentalities," Wilfried Lemke, the UN Secretary-General's special adviser on sport for development and peace, said in a letter to FIFA president Sepp Blatte, the UN said in a statement cited by Reuters.
FIFA rules ban the wearing of hijab on pitch.
The governing body has announced that it was planning to ban hijab and other religious outings during the 2012 Olympics.
But the ban will be reviewed by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) which meets in England on Saturday, March 3.
Founded in 1886 and comprised of four members from FIFA and four from the British associations, IFAB is the football's ultimate law-making body which can change the rules of code dress for football teams.
FIFA vice-president Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein of Jordan will present the case for allowing players to use a Dutch-designed Velcro hijab which comes apart if pulled.
Physical Olympic sports such as rugby and taekwondo allow Muslim women to wear the headscarf in competition.
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.
Lemke said he hopes "the issue can be resolved in a way that respects both the Laws of the Game as well as cultural considerations, while promoting football for all women without discrimination.""It would send the message that each female player, from the top elite level down to the grassroots, has the freedom to decide whether or not to wear this particular piece of attire while on the field.
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one's affiliations.