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Canadian Soccer Association says Quebec has no right to ban turbans

Aneel Samra, 18, holds a soccer ball in his backyard Wednesday, June 5, 2013 in Montreal. Samra has not been able to play organized soccer since last year due to his religious headgear.


The Canadian Soccer Association says a provincial association has no right to ban turban-wearing children from playing.

The organization is wading into a controversy over the Quebec Soccer Federation's decision to restrict turban-wearing Sikhs from the pitch.

The Ottawa-based organization says it is currently discussing the matter with the provincial body, as a top priority, and it expects the position to be revised.

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"[This] is the governing body for the sport in the country," a Canadian association official, requesting anonymity, said Friday.

"The Quebec Soccer Federation falls under our supervision. So they would apply the regulations the way we mandate them to."

The Canadian assocation has instructed all provincial bodies to allow players with turbans – and Quebec's federation is the only to have refused.

Quebec's federation says it's concerned about safety and points out that the rules of the world governing body, FIFA, don't specifically allow turbans. Critics of the Quebec decision point out that FIFA's rules don't explicitly ban turbans, either.

The move has drawn some international news coverage and condemnation from many federal politicians, especially within the Conservative government and the Opposition Liberals.

But within Quebec, aside from the occasional critical newspaper column, there has been little sign of a public backlash.

In fact, the Quebec soccer body's sponsors have refused to wade into the matter.

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The Saputo cheese company and the Couche-Tard chain, which owns Mac's convenience stores across Canada, have declined to offer an opinion.

The Canadian soccer official said the national agency took up the issue with provincial officials after the ban was announced following a board vote last weekend.

"As an unequivocal majority of our membership agrees with our approach and has safely instituted it within their respective soccer communities, we expect the Quebec Soccer Federation to do the same," said Victor Montagliani, president of the Canadian Soccer Association, in a statement Thursday.

"The Canadian Soccer Association is committed to making soccer accessible to the largest number of Canadians and will continue to work towards resolving this important and sensitive issue in a timely fashion."

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