FILE PHOTO: Females wearing hijab during a game

Amina, a gifted female footballer, would have had a fantastic soccer career ahead of her if all things had been equal. She played for Waheed Babes FC of Kaduna, a female soccer club.

Her promising soccer career was abruptly terminated in 1998, when she was just 18, following her parents’ objection to her continued engagement in the game because of some religious sensibilities.

Her parents, ardent adherents of Islam, believed that the dress code for the sport was not decent for a female Muslim as it exposed certain vital parts of her body, contrary to Islamic tenets.

Desperate to continue in the game, she opted to wear a scarf or hijab along with long pants, as a safe course of action but such was unacceptable for the game.

Elsewhere in 2011, the Iran’s female football team was prevented from participating in the second round qualification match for the soccer event of this year’s London Olympics.

In that ill-fated qualifier against Jordan, the Iranian team was walked-over as the players refused to pull off their hijabs before the kick-off.

That incident, unfortunately, marked the end of Iran’s dream to the Olympics, even though it had been leading their group.

On March 1, 2012, the United Nations (UN) called on the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) to review the ban on the wearing of the Muslim headscarf on the field of play but the latter held its ground.

However, Ali Bin Al Hussein, a Vice-President of FIFA, who is also a Jordanian, did not like what happened to the Iranians and so, launched a campaign to make FIFA review its stand on use of hijab.

Soccer analysts recall that when the idea of scarves and long pants was first muted in 2007, the International Football Association Board (IFAB), which fashions the main policy thrusts for FIFA, gave it a vote down.

Hussein lobbied members of IFAB, which included England’s Football Association (FA), the Scottish Football Association (SFA), the Football Association of Wales (FAW) and Northern Ireland’s Irish Football Association (IFA), as well as FIFA.

For a crucial decision to sail through at IFAB deliberations, it must be approved by three-quarters of the total vote, which translates to at least six members.

It is not surprising; therefore, that FIFA has reviewed its decision on the use of hijab by Muslim women during soccer competitions.

According to FIFA, test-runs will be conducted on the use of the gears, pending July 2, when a final decision will be made.

Soccer enthusiasts, as well as members of the Islamic community worldwide, have applauded this tentative decision, while hoping that it will stay for good after July 2.

Godiya Jezhi, an Abuja-based female referee, says that FIFA’s decision is laudable, since she had always believed that women soccer players should dress decently.

“Women are not supposed to expose their hair or bodies in the public. It is not a matter of Muslim women alone; I know that Christian ladies are also not supposed to expose their bodies anyhow; women’s bodies are not meant for everybody to see’’.

A retired female footballer, Umar Sarki, formerly of FCT Queens, says that the introduction of hijab is “long overdue”, stressing that it will boost the number of female players in soccer.

“It is acceptable because we Muslim female players are not many in the country; in a team, you may only find a handful of players who are Muslims.

“If they try the use of a scarf and it is comfortable for them, then they should go ahead and wear it,’’ Sarki advises.

Hauwa Abdullah, a female U-17 footballer, also hails FIFA, saying she is glad that the World soccer-governing body has finally approved the use of scarves by female Muslim players.

“For me, it is a welcome development and I like it. I am grateful to FIFA for allowing the use of the scarf’’.

Some other Nigerians also praise the new mode of dressing for but noted that it should be optional and not compulsory for those concerned.

Miss Charity Luka, a football fan, observes that wearing the scarf could make the players feel uncomfortable.

“I find it difficult to see the need for such extra burden on female players. What about the accompanying heat?” she wonders

Another expresses a worry, saying: “Some players are full of tricks in the field of play. The opponents can drag the hijab and in the process, can throw the player off-balance’’.

A sports analyst, Tomilayo Adedeji, also thinks along that line on inconveniences on the pitch.

“One can imagine the inconveniences and discomfort that will accompany the use of the head scarf by the affected female football players. In fact, the dressing is no more jersey”.

For Hadiza Abdulfatah, a public servant, however,“It is un-Islamic for a Muslim woman to leave her head open or expose any other parts of her body to the public.

“A devote Muslim woman must always cover her head, breast, buttocks and other sensitive parts of her body, so that she does not attract unnecessary attention,’’ she stresses.

“For me, it is a welcome development and I like it. I am grateful to FIFA for allowing the use of scarf,’’ she says.

Not a few football enthusiasts think that FIFA, by its latest action, has broadened the scope of participation in the game, thus integrating a hitherto alienated group.

By this action, the foremost soccer-governing body has aptly demonstrated that its activities and decisions are not based on parochial values, persuasions and prejudices but rather, on ideals that integrate humanity.

As it is now, the sky has become the limit for any female footballers who wish to excel without any limitations.



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