FIFA approves goal line technology, Islamic headscarf


Iran’s and Malaysia women footballers play a friendly match in Tehran in this June 25, 2009 file photo. (AFP)

Friday 6 July 2012

ZURICH: Goal-line technology to confirm whether or not a goal has been scored and the use of the Islamic headscarf were approved by soccer’s ruling body the International Football Association Board (IFAB) yesterday.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter, formerly an opponent of technology, reaffirmed the world governing body’s support after a shot from Ukraine’s Marco Devic at Euro 2012 appeared to cross the line before being hooked clear by England defender John Terry.

The decision clears FIFA to use goal-line technology at the 2014 World Cup. The English Premier League is expected to adopt one system during next season.

Blatter was a member of the panel which accepted test results proving that the Hawk-Eye and GoalRef systems quickly and accurately judge when balls cross the goal line.

Hawk-Eye is a British camera-based system already used in tennis and cricket.

GoalRef is a Danish-German project using magnetic sensors to track a special ball.

Hijab ban

IFAB also lifted a ban on the headscarf or hijab which it imposed in 2007, arguing that it was unsafe and increased the risk of neck injuries.

In overturning the ban, the IFAB took cognizance of new designs that are secured with Velcro and which experts have said eliminate the risk of serious injury.

“Safety and medical issues have been removed for the use of the headscarf and it is approved that players can have the headscarf,” FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke told a news conference.

FIFA vice president Prince Ali of Jordan led a year-long campaign to overturn the headscarf ban .

Critics said the ban promoted inequality at the highest level of the world’s most popular game.

Public changes in the governing body’s thinking were clear last year when it was decided that the hijab was a cultural rather than a religious symbol.

The hijab is worn by women beyond the age of puberty to observe Islamic rules on modesty and interaction of the sexes.

According to FIFA, more than 29 million women and girls around the world play the game.

In March IFAB — custodian of the game’s laws — said it was in favor of female players wearing the hijab in games organized by FIFA.

That announcement followed the proposal of a Velcro hijab, which comes apart by FIFA Vice President Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein of Jordan.

The world governing body came under pressure to lift the ban in 2007, after an 11-year-old girl in Canada was prevented from wearing a hijab for safety reasons.

In 2011, the Iranian team was disqualified for refusing to remove their headscarves moments before kick-off in the 2012 Olympic second round qualifying match against Jordan.

Decision welcomed

FIFA’s ruling on the hijab was welcomed by a number of Arab states as well as the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

approved designs for two scarf designs they said do not threaten players’ safety.

“It’s a good news for us. It will benefit the community. It will be good for the Muslim community,” said Alex Soosay, general secretary of the AFC, based in the capital Kuala Lumpur of Muslim-majority Malaysia.

Critics said the ban promoted inequality at the highest level of the world’s most popular game.

“This decision, impatiently awaited, makes us very happy,” said Sheikha Naima Al-Sabah, the president of the women’s sporting committee for Kuwait’s football federation.

“It brings justice to female players. Its positive impact will be direct on Kuwaiti women’s enthusiasm to play football,” Sabah added.

The Kuwaiti women’s football team, like those of the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain, plays in various international competitions.

Sabah said FIFA’s decision establishes new “respect for different religions, with the veil ban being until now a barrier for Kuwaiti women.”

Iran was at the forefront of the fight against the veil ban. It had complained to FIFA after its women’s team was banned in June 2011 from playing in a qualifier against Jordan for the London Olympics.

Boon to women’s football in the Gulf

FIFA’s decision is “going to promote women’s sport in Arab and Islamic countries, which have top-notch soccer players who are unable to compete because of the veil ban,” said Adel Marzouq, coach of the women’s football team from Bahrain.

“This wise decision will encourage footballers to play their chosen sport without embarrassment,” he added.

In the United Arab Emirates, where football is encouraged from an early age, women will from now on have the “chance to practice this sport with religious respect,” said Yussef Abdallah, the head of the country’s football federation.

In neighboring Qatar, the tiny, gas-rich nation that will host the 2022 World Cup and which encourages women’s sport, the relief was clear.

“FIFA was assured that the headscarf doesn’t impact security, which will allow women footballers to freely practice their sport,” said Hani Ballan, Qatar’s technical adviser for women’s football.

“The number of women playing soccer is going to grow, along with the support of families, footballing federations and sporting bodies worried about Muslim identity,” Ballan added.

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