FIFA having second thoughts about lifting headscarf ban?

Tales of a comically bizarre episode during a meeting of the FIFA medical committee has supporters of the headscarf for Muslim women footballers fear that their project is being stalled.

The International Football Association Board meets in special session in Kyiv on July 2, the morning after the Euro 2012 Final. Top of the agenda is whether or not to approve goal-line technology; next comes whether to approve a specially-designed headscarf for use in elite women’s football.

Both issues were discussed at length by the board at its annual meeting in Bagshot, south-west of London, at the start of March. The decision were the same: further testing should follow ahead of likely ratification in Kyiv.

However, while testing on goal-line technology is going ahead with a will, the headscarf issue appears in danger of being dumped in an administrative cul-de-sac.

FIFA’s medical committee is chaired by Belgian exco member Michel D’Hooghe and a key member is Professor Jiri Dvorak, the charismatic head of the world federation’s medical sector.

Sources close to the committee have reported back that the headscarf issue was discussed at a meeting before last month’s meeting of the full FIFA executive committee. ‘Testing’ of the headscarf apparently involved asking a secretary to walk around the room while attempts were made to pull the scarf from her head.

That image, together with the absence of any apparent ‘live’ match test, suggests both a lack of both serious intent and perception concerning the issue.

This perception may be unfortunate. Designers of ‘safe headscarfs’ from Holland and Canada met committee members along with two experts from an independent technical institute. Suggested changes to the designs – one using Velcro – are being undertaken but supporters of the headscarf have complained that the amendments were not precise enough.

Some members of the medical committee are of the view that it is sufficient to maintain the ‘cap’ which is already accepted by the board but which does not satisfy the cultural and religious susceptibilities of many women players in the Islamic world.

World Soccer, 10 May 2012

Meanwhile Russia Today reports that the Iranian women’s futsal team is already playing with headscarves in anticipation of the FIFA decision in July.