More than 3,600 athletes, ages 14 to 18, will compete in 26 sports in the games that will be held in Singapore from October 12-25. The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announced on Monday that Iran had been removed from the competition, based on a ruling by the Fifa executive committee that the Iranian team would not be allowed to participate if its players refused to appear without the hijab. Fifa first banned the hijab in 2007, after an 11-year-old player in Canada was stopped from wearing the head scarf for safety reasons.
Fifa had originally accepted the Iranian team’s application to play in the tournament when Iran was selected in October 2009 by the AFC to represent Asia in the games, but the ruling overturned that decision. According to Farideh Shojaee, the deputy head of the Iranian Football Federation, Fifa officials had originally accepted the Iranian team’s participation in the Singapore games knowing the players would be wearing the hijab, but then worried that other countries may try to play in national dress, rather than standard football strips.“They thought the Islamic hijab was our country’s national and official costume and reasoned that [athletes from] other countries may want to wear their national costumes in the games if the Iranian team was allowed to do so,” she was quoted by Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) as saying.
Iranian officials also believe Fifa’s decision to ban the hijab in the Youth Olympics will set a precedent that affects not only Iranian female athletes in the future, but also those from other Islamic countries. Abbas Torabian, the head of the international relations committee of the Iranian Football Federation, called on all Islamic countries this week to protest Fifa’s decision to prohibit Islamic hijab in international games.
Wearing the Islamic hijab has been mandatory for all female Iranian athletes since the Islamic revolution of 1979.In the past, female Iranian soccer players have been allowed to compete in headscarves and clothes that cover the whole body in such competitions as the West Asian Games, last held in Doha in 2005.