Aneel Samra was unable to play soccer because he chose to wear a patka while playing in a minor league soccer league. After the successful media coverage and the petitions running all over with the help of the community we have finally been able to get FIFA to overturn the decision and allow Aneel along […]
Aneel Samra was unable to play soccer because he chose to wear a patka while playing in a minor league soccer league. After the successful media coverage and the petitions running all over with the help of the community we have finally been able to get FIFA to overturn the decision and allow Aneel along with other kids to play with their Patkas.
A number of boys in Montreal-area community of LaSalle have been told they can no longer play soccer because they wear religious head coverings.
Aneel Samra, 17, registered for a house league soccer in LaSalle this year, but last Wednesday, when he went to sign a letter accepting to play by the rules, he was told that he wouldn’t be permitted to play if he wore his turban.
When he refused, his registration fee for the MU 17/18 league was refunded and his season cancelled.
Samra said he has been playing soccer for about 10 years in LaSalle and has always worn his turban. He never had a problem prior to this year.
Samra, who is a Sikh, wears a turban made of thin material that keeps his long hair in a bun. He was told that if he wanted to play this year, he would have to forgot the turban, or to wrap his hair in a hairnet approved by FIFA, the international soccer federation.
“It’s pretty degrading to do that,” he said. “Because the whole point of turban is to cover your head.”
Samra said he has encountered problems with his turban before.
Though he says he is good enough, he never bothered to try out to play on an inter-city team because he knows he wouldn’t be permitted to play with his turban. Earlier this year, while playing for Beurling Academy, where he attends school, a referee warned his coach that the turban was not permitted, but the coach convinced the referee to allow Samra to play anyway.
Samra said he knows international soccer rules don’t allow people to wear turbans, but in the past those rules were ignored.
Samra’s father, Karmail Singh Samra, said he’s considering fighting the ruling, because he believes it is discriminatory.
“If it were dangerous, I would understand, but it’s not dangerous,” said Karmail Singh Samra. “This is discrimination.”
Samra wasn’t the only person told he couldn’t play. His neighbours were also forbidden to play if they wore turbans.
“They’ve been playing since they’re five years old,” said Gurdial Singh, whose 15- and 17-year-old sons were told they could not play. “This is very sad.”
LaSalle minor soccer association president Sofio Pagliaro said all boys who wear turbans have been told they can’t play. He said the association can no longer ignore the rule because the regional body — the Lac St. Louis Regional Soccer Association — told the league that it will enforce the previously ignored rules.
“It’s not up to us,” said Pagliaro. “If we decide to let these players play and a referee from the region comes to ref that game, he is allowed to decline to ref that game, and then we would get fined.
“We feel terrible because LaSalle has a large community of kids who will be affected,” Pagliaro added.
The issue of allowing head coverings in soccer leagues has drawn the ire of religious and human rights groups in recent years.
In 2007, an Ottawa team pulled out of a tournament in Laval after one of its players was asked to take off her hijab.
Last summer, a Quebec referee for the Lac St. Louis Regional Soccer Association was suspended after she refused to remove her head scarf.
The Alberta Soccer Association passed a resolution in 2007 allowing players to wear hijabs while playing. Players in Ontario also are allowed to wear the head covering.
Samra said he doesn’t understand why he’s not allowed to play while wearing the covering.
“I read somewhere that the turban offers an unfair advantage for headers, but if anything, it would be a disadvantage because the ball would bounce in a funny way,” he said.
The rules may soon be changing, at least for women.
The International Football Association Board voted in March to rescind its 2007 ban on women wearing hijabs — a vote set to be ratified in July. It’s not known whether this would also affect men wearing turbans.
Either way, it will be too late to salvage Samra’s soccer season which begins next week.
“I just hope that they change the rule to allow kids with turbans to play, because I just want to play this summer,” Samra said.
~ By Jason Magder, Postmedia News
~ Source : http://www.vancouversun.com