KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING
— Communications confusion means that football’s ban on the headscarf at senior level will not be lifted any time soon by the game’s lawmakers.
The issue is due to be considered by the International Board in Zurich on July 5 but FIFA medical chiefs and manufacturers are in a muddle which means the entire approval process has been stalled.
Last March the board asked FIFA’s medical committee to assess the safety of the latest designs. The board would then give a go-ahead which would delight women players across the Muslim world along with campaigners led by Asia’s FIFA vice-president, Prince Ali of Jordan.
However, medical committee chairman Michel D’Hooghe says he is still waiting to hear from the designers . . . while designers from both the Dutch and Canadian companies involved says they are still waiting to hear from FIFA.
The breakdown in communi- cation is letting down women players across the Islamic world though supporters have worked hard to distance themselves from perceptions that this is a religious and/or cultural issue by using the term ‘headscarf’ rather than ‘hijab.’
Muslim women can use the headscarf at confederation level and below but cannot use it at the highest level in the women’s World Cup or the Olympic Games.
Last Thursday in Budapest, D’Hooghe told this writer that he and his committee – which includes FIFA medical chief Jiri Dvorak – had not been satisfied with the safety aspect of current headscarves. He said he had asked the designers for improvements and was awaiting their response.
Belgian D’Hooghe, a long-serving member of the FIFA executive committee, said he and Dvorak between them possessed the power of initial approval though the ultimate decision lay with the International Board.
D’Hooghe’s words came as a shock to both Prince Ali and to designer Van den Bremen of Dutch company Capsters, which considers itself “the world leading brand in sports headscarves.”
Van den Bremen informed this writer: “We had been invited to come to FIFA in Zurich last month to present our designs to the medical committee. Unfortunately only two members were present during that meeting.
“We are very surprised to hear that Dr D’Hooge is expecting new designs in the next few days. After the meeting we had with them on April 20 (attended also by representatives from research and testing institutions) we wrote an official letter to the medical committee asking them for clear requirements and testing methods since they were not given during our meeting with them.”
FIFA, said van den Bremen, has ignored her.
She added: “We were not acknowledged about the wish for new designs since they have not answered our letters regarding the questions we had for requirements/testing.
“We would be very happy to work with them, as we told them during the meeting, and develop new and improved designs if necessary. But we want to stress that we already have a tested and approved [sports] headscarf design that has been produced and used.”
Confirmation of FIFA’s failure to talk to the designers was echoed by Elham Seyed Javad, chief designer of Canada’s IQÖ Design, who noted: “Since the meeting, we have not received any direct feedback from FIFA’s committee on the design we suggested. However, we got informed, two days ago through a media coverage, that the design we suggested has been asked to be reviewed for security and comfort issues.”
Clearly the issue is virtually past the point of no return, at least this time around. IFAB will not be in a position to reconsider the headscarf until its 2013 annual meeting in the spring of next year.
‘Respect and dignity’
Prince Ali had been praised widely for the presentation on a ‘new generation’ of headscarves which he had made to the board in March. Subsequently he has grown increasingly angry and frustrated and was “quite shocked” by D’Hooghe’s comments.
He believed D’Hooghe’s objections thus far to be “without foundation.”
Prince Ali added: “I hope this issue will be treated with the same respect and dignity that other issues are treated with including goal-line technology. I’m hoping that at the very least the IFAB will allow for a proper evaluation and that means allowing players to play wearing these headscarves.
“If the medical committee and FIFA wants to monitor then let them do it. I know for certain there have been no reported cases of injuries . . . and, as far as I have seen in consultation with some of the best doctors in the world, there is no reason not to approve it now.
“I am now concerned that there is no seriousness or desire for testing. But it’s a major issue and will certainly not go away. It’s not about religion, it’s simply about allowing young women to play football. To prevent them right now is absurd.”
He might think the same about the breakdown in communications, assuming that is what it is.
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