World football players’ union backs hijab rule change


FIFPro supports a proposal to allow a safe headscarf to be worn by women football players. Currently FIFA bans women who wear the Islamic headscarf (hijab) from playing in regional or international matches. They are only allowed to wear a cap that covers the players heads to the headline but does not extend below the ears to cover the neck.

His Royal Highness Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, FIFA vice president representing Asia, has recommended the executive committee of FIFA a revision of the laws of the game, to allow a “Velcro-opening” headscarf to be worn by women. He will be presenting the case to the international Football Association Board (IFAB) on March 3rd.

Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein has asked Brendan Schwab, the president of FIFPro Division Asia and Board member of FIFPro, to support his proposal. “The primary objective is to ensure that all women are able to play football at all levels without any barriers or discrimination.”

On behalf of FIFPro, Schwab gave his support to the proposal. “FIFPro has always been a strong supporter of the rights of all women to play football and for Islamic women to play football wearing headscarves”, Schwab explains. “We believe, as His Royal Highness does, that the participation of women is extremely beneficial, not just for the individual involved but for our game generally.”

Provided the headscarf is safe for all players on the pitch, FIFPro is of the opinion that women players should be allowed to wear appropriately designed headscarves, Schwab told Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein.

FIFPro’s Women’s Football Committee welcomes the proposal of Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein. “For female players, the current ban on wearing headscarves for religious reasons is discrimination”, explains Frederique Winia, spokeswoman of the Women’s Football Committee.

IFAB has argued that the current ban of the hijab is about safety, but according to Winia that argument is not correct. “There are several specially designed safe headscarves, such as a Dutch-designed Velcro hijab which comes apart if pulled. Prince Ali is planning to demonstrate this headscarf during the IFAB meeting. Why could this hijab not be allowed? Next to that, there are other physical Olympic sports such as rugby and taekwondo that do allow women to wear a headscarf in competition.”

“For some players this rule could be an end to their Olympic dream, as female Muslim players will be automatically disqualified for wearing these headscarves on the field”, knows Winia. ‘Last year the Iranian women’s soccer team were prevented from playing an Olympic qualifying match against Jordan because they refused to remove their hijabs.”

“We hope that Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein can convince the members of the IFAB. He has the full support of FIFPro and also the support of the Women’s Football Committee”, says Winia. “I would also like to refer to a very special initiative called Let Us Play, which is a petition organized to give people the opportunity to show their support to women playing football and wearing headscarves. I would like to request all our supporters to sign this petition.”

FIFPro news release, 21 February 2012