The Washington Post reports that the Iranian women's soccer team has been disqualified just before a crucial qualifying match for the 2012 London Olympics because of the Islamic headscarves they wear while playing. FIFA officials concluded that the scarves the players use to cover their hair break the association's dress code. In Iran, all women are obliged to cover their hair, neck, arms and legs. Female athletes who compete internationally have to obey the country's dress code.
"This ruling means that women soccer in Iran is over," said Shahrzad Mozafar, the team's former head coach. She said that as a result of FIFA's decision, the Iranian government will no longer send the team abroad for competitions.
In April 2010, FIFA announced that it was planning to ban headscarves and other religious attire during the 2012 Olympics. In response, Iran's team designed special headscarves that players wrapped tightly around their heads and necks. The team said they were in line with guidelines set by the football association.
Iranian officials disagreed, saying that the players were "informed thoroughly" before Friday's match against Jordan that the headscarf covering a woman's neck is banned for safety reasons, an unidentified FIFA official said.
We're no soccer safety experts, but we have to wonder how these simple scarves could present such a threat to the athletes that a compromise, redesign, exception, or other work-around couldn't be arranged to accommodate them. After all, we're talking about FIFA rules, not an ancient religious text here. While there may be legitimate concerns about physical harm that the scarves could cause, it's hard to understand how they can be allowed to outweigh the damage caused by a decision that's guaranteed to kill the ambitions of these already oppressed female athletes.
Read more at the Washington Post.