POSTED: April 6th 2010

FIFA stands up for football law so Iranian girls miss Youth Olympics tournament

KEIR RADNEDGE / Sports Features Communications

LONDON/SINGAPORE: A failure to either read or heed one of the basic and oldest laws of association football has led to Iran’s girls team missing this year’s inaugural first Youth Olympic Games in Singapore in August and September.

Law Four is perfectly clear in stating that the basic equipment is comprises a jersey or shirt with sleeves, shorts, stockings, shinguards and footwear. Items, such as jewellery which may be considered a potential risk, are banned.

The only exceptions are made for goalkeepers who may wear tracksuit bottoms rather than shorts and approved protective equipment (e.g such as Petr Cech’s headguard).

However, the Iran football federation had informed the National Olympic Committee, event organizers and FIFA that the Iranian girls’  team, due to religious beliefs, would participate in the competition only if allowed to observe the Islamic dress code – meaning use in matches of the hijab headscarf.

FIFA’s executive committee, in line with previous decisions which must have been known to the Iranians, refused. The National Olympic Committee then withdrew the team which will be replaced by Thailand.

A statement from the Asian football federation said: “The FIFA executive committee had no choice but to take the decision that Iran will not be able to participate in the inaugural Youth Olympic Football tournaments."

The issue is not a new one. Three years ago FIFA made its position perfectly clear when an Ontario girl was a barred from a local Canadian youth tournament for wanting to play wearing a hijab.

Given well-known sensitivity over the issue, it is hard to believe the Iranian sports authorities were not aware of the likely outcome of their strategy. The losers are the athletes who will not among the 3,500 aged between 14 and 18 competing in 26 sports at the Youth Olympics.

Keywords · Youth Olympic Games · Singapore · FIFA · Laws of the Game · Iran · Iranian National Olympic Commitee · Islamic dress code · hijab

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