Hijab ban driving women away from soccer
By Patrick Johnston
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Muslim women are being driven away from soccer by FIFA's ban of the hijab, with more likely to follow if rulemakers fail to reverse the decision at a meeting next month, Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein of Jordan told Reuters.
Last year the Iranian women's soccer team were prevented from playing their 2012 Olympic second round qualifying match against Jordan because they refused to remove their hijabs before kick-off.
Iran had topped their group in the first round of Olympic qualifiers after going undefeated, however the Asian nation were given 3-0 defeats in their four second round matches because of their failure to comply with the rules, their dreams of competing in London abruptly ended.
"I think that football, being the most popular sport in the world, accessible to all, we should take the lead on this issue and therefore that is what we are trying to pursue and hopefully we will get a pass from IFAB."
They will hold a meeting in England on March 3 where Prince Ali will present the case for allowing players to use a Dutch-designed Velcro hijab which comes apart if pulled and, he hopes, will remove safety concerns.
"As far as I'm concerned, I want to make sure and guarantee what it is - that football is for everyone," said the Prince, who at 36 is the youngest member of FIFA's all-powerful executive committee.
"If you look at other sports such as rugby, they are allowed to play so therefore we hope it will be the same case with football."
"I do hope and do believe that if common sense does prevail all will be supportive of this, why not?
"I don't like the politics, we are going straight to the point which is to allow all of our players to participate on all levels," Prince Ali said.
"Well I think already we have seen that, and I think that is very unfortunate. I think we need to give the right to (play) to everyone across the world and we have to respect each others cultures."
"If you want to have a fancy hairdo, or whatever (it doesn't matter) just let them play and I think there are so many women out there who have the right to do this and participate in this sport.
"If you look at FIFA as well, they spend about 15 percent of their budget on developing women's football but when it comes to playing at this level they are suddenly banned and we have to change that."
While the campaign has royal approval, members of the Jordanian women's team have used the modern day method of social networking to highlight the campaign.
A Facebook page called 'let us play' has been launched and attracted more than 30,000 'likes', while the players have used national radio to also boost their message.
"I think definitely, definitely. Just give them the opportunity and let them make their choices. It is a game for the world -- that's what makes football what it is, it is a very, very special game and therefore we should allow full participation."
(Reporting by Patrick Johnston. To query or comment on this story email email@example.com)