Quebec soccer federation reverses ban on turbans

Soccer ball and playing field. (FOTOLIA)

Soccer ball and playing field. (FOTOLIA)

GIUSEPPE VALIANTE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:05 PM ET

MONTREAL - The Quebec Soccer Federation announced Saturday that it reversed its decision to ban Sikh turbans from soccer pitches and as a result, had its suspension lifted from the Canadian Soccer Association.

The QSF's executive committee unanimously passed a motion on Friday to comply with the international governing body of soccer, FIFA, which allowed male players in Canada to wear head covers, said Brigitte Frot, QSF executive director.

The QSF had banned the turban in 2012 and upheld its ban at the beginning of June, despite an April 2013 CSA directive that instructed all provincial soccer associations to allow players to wear turbans. In response, the CSA removed the QSF's membership rights to the national soccer body. The CSA reinstated those rights on Saturday.

Frot said Saturday that the QSF's intention with the ban was to receive "confirmation" from FIFA as to the rules regarding head covers. The QSF also stated that it had safety concerns with the turban.

Frot said Saturday that she "especially" wanted to apologize to Quebec's anglophone community for saying that religiously observant Sikhs who wished to wear the turban can "play in their backyard."

Frot said that she chose the wrong words.

"I regret (saying it)," she said. "English is not my first language and I was trying to find a nicer word for 'park.' Honestly, it was very, very involuntary."

The ban drew the ire of federal politicians and made international headlines.

Balpreet Singh, spokesman for the World Sikh Organization of Canada, said the QSF's decision was "long overdue."

"I think they had no real alternative at this point but to lift the ban," he said.

However, despite the reversal, young observant Sikhs across the province missed the deadline to register for Quebec soccer teams for the 2013 season.

He said he hoped that soccer associations in Quebec will re-open registration for young Sikhs.

QSF spokesman Michel Dugas told QMI Saturday afternoon that the federation hasn't discussed the issue yet but hopes to work something out,

"If we all act in good faith then we can solve the problem," he said.

Singh told QMI that up until now, he hasn't seen the QSF acting in good faith.

He said his organization sent several letters and made phone calls to the QSF "and I find it very rude that they have refused to even acknowledge receipt of them."


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