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Quebec Soccer Federation reverses controversial turban ban

Aneel Samra, 18, plays with 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.

Ryan Remiorz/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Quebec's soccer federation is ending its much-criticized turban ban, a day after soccer's world body said such headwear is acceptable on the pitch.

The organization made the announcement Saturday morning, saying it was relieved to receive clear instructions from FIFA on what has become a contentious issue.

"It has been our intention from the onset to get a confirmation that the FIFA allowed wearing of turbans, patkas or keskis," said the Quebec federation's executive director, Brigitte Frot.

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"We are very happy that the FIFA has responded to our request and by the same token dispelled the ambiguities created by a lack of clarification."

The ban prompted the Canadian Soccer Association to suspend the Quebec Soccer Federation earlier this week. The national soccer body has since lifted its suspension upon Quebec federation's reversal.

Frot said her organization has sent a letter to the national body informing it that the ban has been lifted, which once received, should put an end to the suspension.

The Quebec organization had cited safety issues for its controversial move as well as the fact the garments were not endorsed by FIFA.

The ban had become a political football. The Parti Québécois government supported the federation's position, while many federal politicians slammed it as exclusionary.

The federation "unwillingly" found itself the focus of a polarizing debate, Frot said in a statement Saturday.

"Our intervention was solely from a technical point of view and had absolutely nothing to do with religious matters or political views," she said in defending the federation's actions.

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"We sometimes had difficulty communicating our intentions over the last few days. If we have offended or appalled some people, please know that it was not intentional nor voluntary and we are deeply sorry."

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