The mother of an 11-year-old girl is unhappy with the way the rules division of international soccer's governing body handled the issue of Muslim girls wearing traditional headgear during organized matches.
The International Football Association Board was asked to consider the case of Asmahan Mansour, an Ottawa-area soccer player recently ejected from an indoor game in Quebec for wearing a hijab.
The referee of the game in Laval, north of Montreal, said the scarf was a safety concern.
IFAB officials concluded Saturday in Manchester, England that existing rules for on-field equipment are adequate.
"If you play football, there's a set of laws and rules, and law 4 outlines the basic equipment," said Brian Barwick, chief executive of the English Football Association, which is one of the board's members. "It's absolutely right to be sensitive to people's thoughts and philosophies, but equally there has to be a set of laws that are adhered to, and we favour law 4 being adhered to."
Law 4 states that players "must not use equipment or wear anything that is dangerous to himself or another player (including any kind of jewellery)."
IFAB is the branch of the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) - soccer's world governing body - in charge of rules.
Maria Mansour, the girl's mother, said the ejection "humiliated" her daughter.
She hoped the IFAB would be sensitive to the issue.
"As far as the decision, it is disappointing because... IFAB should clarify and be more sensitive to these cases," Maria Mansour said Saturday by telephone from Ottawa. "I truly think they should have (overridden) what Quebec's rule is. (Asmahan) is still hoping that Quebec will remove that rule someday so she will be able to play (in Quebec).
"There's nothing that has been accomplished."
The Nepean Hotspurs under-12 team pulled out of the Canadian indoor championship last Sunday when a Muslim referee ruled Asmahan could not wear a hijab during a game.
She has worn a the headscarf during games played in Ontario, where they are permitted by the provincial association.
Quebec's Soccer Federation said the traditional scarf violated a no-headgear rule set by the sport's governing body for safety reasons.
Valmie Ouellet, co-ordinator of regional technical services for the QSF, later said the referee was simply enforcing rules set by FIFA.
Ouellet declined to comment about IFAB's decision on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the director of the Canadian Arab Federation - who is also a Level 2 referee for the Ontario Soccer Association - maintains that traditional headgear such as hijabs, turbans and yarmulkes are worn by soccer players in Canada and around the world.
Mohamed El Rashidy believes this is strictly an issue in Quebec.
"To me, this ruling does not change anything because nothing needs to change," El Rashidy said by phone from his home in Mississauga, Ont.
"The hijab, when worn safely, has already been allowed in the past and will continue to be allowed in the future under FIFA rules."
El Rashidy said female Muslim soccer players make up a large percentage of athletes at the world's elite levels and they wear hijabs on the field.
Asmahan's coach Louis Maneiro doesn't buy the argument that the hijab poses a threat to safety. As a soccer coach for more than 25 years, he says he's never seen an injury related to the hijab.
Some have questioned how a tucked-in hijab could be seen as dangerous when many girls run around with loose ponytails. "It's very hard to understand or imagine or foresee that a piece of material would be a safety factor," he told the Ottawa Sun. "That's the frustrating part of it."
He hopes the Canadian Soccer Association will be "the strong voice" on the issue and seek amendments to the FIFA rule. "They're kids and they just want to play soccer and certainly want Asmahan to be part of the team," Maneiro said. "They're sticking together on the issue and if it means only playing soccer in this province, then so be it."
Mansour said Asmahan was back on the field Saturday in the Ottawa area.
"She had a great game today and scored two awesome goals," she said. "For now, she's happy to play in Ontario."