Turbans Are Fine After All

Let me preface this by saying that I am not a soccer fan. On TV, the only thing worse than watching soccer is watching reality shows. I also resent that soccer can be found and watched for free, but until TSN just recently inked a deal with Rugby Canada, I was required to pay upwards of $16 per month if I wanted to watch any Rugby on TV. Even now, English Premiere League matches can be easily found, while Top 14, Heineken Cup or Super Rugby matches are conspicuously absent.

I mean… you’re more likely to see Aussie Rules on RDS than you are to see rugby!

That being said, this whole “turban ban” in Quebec has really pissed me off. Not because I care about soccer… I really don’t. What bothers me is the inequality of it all, not to mention the hypocrisy. Some might even go so far as to call it bigoted… but I fall more on the side of believing it gross ignorance rather than bigotry.

For those unaware, what follows is a review of this whole sordid affair.

The Quebec Soccer Federation (QSF) had stated that men wearing turbans wouldn’t be permitted to play organized soccer in Quebec. They initially made the argument that this was a safety issue, a position which was quickly debunked. Turbans are allowed everywhere else in Canada, and neither the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) nor any other provincial union has had any safety concerns.

Sticking to their guns, the QSF then said that they were upholding their ban because FIFA, International Soccer’s governing body, hadn’t said that men wearing headgear was allowed. There was a FIFA ruling in October of 2012 that allowed woman to wear headscarves, in direct response to problems the Iranian women’s team experienced when trying to play qualifying matches for the 2012 Olympics (link here). However, that ruling contained the following words: “only be worn by female players”, and it is upon those words that Quebec hung their argument.

Somehow, people didn’t clue in that  headgear already exists and is already being used for soccer. This thicker and padded gear is fine, but a turban (thinner and lighter) isn’t?

As Turbans are allowed everywhere else in Canada, the CSA penned a missive to the QSF, instructing them to lift their ban and allow kids to play soccer. No surprise, the QSF ignored this directive, leading the CSA to suspend the Quebec federation. No Quebec players could play for Canada or in any CSA competition, and no CSA-certified refs would be permitted to officiate a match in Quebec.

Rather than re-evaluate their position, the QSF, with supporting statements from the separatist and shit-disturbing Parti Quebec minority government (we’ll see how long those clowns stay around… but I digress), basically told the CSA that the QSF was master of its own domain. They said the QSF was autonomous of the CSA, and that the CSA should just mind its own damn business. Pauline Marois, current Premier of Quebec and leader of the PQ, was trying to turn this into a Quebec vs. Rest of Canada battle to advance her own political agenda.

The QSF, puffed up by an excess of ego and self-important bluster, demanded a direct dialog with FIFA to clarify their ruling. Today, FIFA responded… but not to Quebec.

As FIFA deals only with national associations (and not provincial unions with delusions of grandeur), their reply was directed at the Canadian Soccer Association. In short, they extended their October 2012 ruling to include men, stating:

“The letter sent by FIFA to the CSA on 13 June 2013 authorizes the CSA to permit all players to wear head covers as described above, in all areas and on all levels of the Canadian football (soccer) community.” – FIFA Statement, June 14, 2013

That’s where it stands right now. FIFA has come out in support of the CSA, and essentially countered the QSF’s fallback position (once their BS reason of “its not safe” was clearly debunked). As of yet, there has been no reaction from either the QSF, or the Parti Quebecois clowns.

While I hope that the QSF will do what they should have done 2 weeks ago, a small part of me wouldn’t be surprised if the PQ-backed QSF simply dig in their heels even further. Regardless of what the QSF do, the losers in all of this has been the children.

Update: The QSF is apparently holding a press conference tomorrow (because today is, I guess, too soon), to reveal the board of directors’ decision around “lifting the ban”. This is too late for some young soccer players, as over 20 out-of-province teams have already pulled out of a weekend tournament in Quebec (source) due to the QSF’s suspension by the CSA.

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