Que. soccer turban ban frustrates Sikh players

Soccer ball and playing field. (FOTOLIA)

Soccer ball and playing field. (FOTOLIA)

ANNE-LOVELY ETIENNE/ QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:26 PM ET

The Quebec Soccer Federation's turban ban has frustrated young Sikhs who say they want to play their favourite sport while maintaining their identity.

The provincial governing body was suspended by its federal counterpart this week for barring the Sikh headdress in Quebec soccer fields.

Dilpreet Singh, 16, from west-end Montreal, said he faced discrimination from Quebec soccer officials long before this month's spat.

He recalls a game last year in which he lost his cool after a referee ordered him to remove his turban.

"I was pissed enough to push the referee," Singh said. "He immediately gave me a red card. My coach took me off the field and my parents came to get me."

Fellow Sikh player Balkirat Nirbal, 16, said he supports the Canadian Soccer Association's decision to remove the provincial body's sanctioning power.

"I think this (Quebec) decision goes against the principles of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms," Nirbal said. "It begs the question of whether Quebec is against religion."

The Quebec soccer federation has defended its ban by citing a rule drafted by FIFA, the world governing body for soccer.

FIFA doesn't explicitly ban turbans, but doesn't endorse them either and the Quebec group said the head coverings pose safety concerns.

Balkirat said a referee cited those concerns when he ordered him to wrap his turban in Styrofoam.

"The pro wrap tore so easily but he made us wear it anyway," Balkirat recalled.

The Quebec Soccer Federation has called for talks to resolve the dispute, which has made waves all the way to Parliament Hill.

 


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