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I'm a Footballer Who Happens to Wear Hijab -- I Didn't Need FIFA to Tell Me That

Huffington Post picked up this piece that I had initially posted on this blog.

It resonated with some people.

Filed under FIFA IFAB hijab veil pitch football right2wear

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Twitter / _shireenahmed_: Clarification about FIFA ...

My opinion on FIFA allowing hijabs on the pitch. Pretty much boils down to this.

I am writing in more detail about it but this entire process is exhausting. 

Unimaginable to think that one could be barred from what they love to play because of what they wear. 

But there it is.

And now we are assured that it is OK.

Why it wasn’t OK in the first place is completely beyond me.

Being ripped from playing because of my decision to wear hijab was different than being ripped from playing due to injury.

The former was because of certain “isms” of others. Their choice.

Latter was because I was engaged in fierce, competitive play. My choice.

Now I can play.

I could always play.

Now FIFA says I can play.

There is the difference.

Filed under hijab football pitch veil scarf right2wear

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Will This Never End? “No Turbans on the Pitch”


By Shireen Ahmed.image

In the last couple of months, I have covered extensively the issue of IFAB lifting the ban on hijab’s on the pitch. As a footballer who chooses to wear hijab, this issue was terribly personal and very important to me.

I have been playing for decades and am elated that Muslim players may now be included in international and FIFA sanctioned competitions.

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(Source: footynions)

Filed under Sikh football turban right2wear racism soccer

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Unveiling Hijab on the Pitch

This morning I woke up to find out that a design submitted by designer in Montreal Elham Sayed Javad was accepted by IFAB as an acceptable FIFA-approved model for a headscarf.
This means that we may soon be seeing hijabs on the pitch. It will open up the doors of competition and inclusion for thousands of potential footballers and extend opportunity for existing players.
I have been playing football for almost 30 years.This decision is a victory for me, my daughter and her daughters.
It is also a victory for the sport.
Football is a game that unites countries in turmoil, strangers in fandom and creates development and cooperation between nations and communities that may not otherwise have a connection.
Most important is signifies the importance of choice. If a woman wishes to wear hijab and still participate at a high level, she is not restricted from doing so.
The world is abuzz with many people philisophizing and making assumptions about women in hijab. There are questions to its’ relevance in this country, the impositions of the Eastern world and its’ representation of patriarchy and oppression.
The core issue of hijab in football isn’t about religion. It’s about opportunity, right to wear and respect.
Whether a player wears a turban, is adorned with tattoos of the Holy Trinity or wears a Star of David is quite frankly irrelevant.
Their personal choice to believe in a faith and practice can not be a reason to eliminate them from play. Particularly now that there has been a hijab-designed to meet all safety criteria that IFAB requires.
My football uniform consists of my hijab as much as it does my jersey and my boots. I don’t use pins - just a stretchable cotton with another piece underneath, so my current club allowed me to play.
I even bought a branded athletic shirt and stitched it to my liking as the material had wicking fabric suitable for intense matches.
For a very long time after I chose to wear hijab, I was excluded from playing in regular FIFA  and Canadian Soccer Association sanctioned-clubs. Most local clubs decided to avoid the issue and although they were independent, FIFA said “NO” so they could do the same. They cited various reasons; everything from players safety to non-permissibility of religious symbols to simply ‘we aren’t sure- so no’. Some clubs decided it was up to the referee to decide leaving players and teams quite frustrated without a firm answer. Each provincial football body may have varying levels of deference to FIFA’s hijab ban which was strictly imposed in 2007 as a neck-safety precaution. Many argue Law 4 of FIFA it is about racism and xenophobia as opposed to safety.
Thankfully, I found a fantastic club in my area devoted to
Youth Soccer and eventually I became the convener for the women’s division. There was all level of skill- ranging from varsity elite to beginner.

Because there were no restriction on type of hijab, many different women decided to join. They felt less judged and accepted. No concerns regarding eligibility due to hijab.
For those who are much more competitive and looking for serious football, it may have been frustrating at times. A good run in an enjoyable environment but not the full organization and competition they may have craved. But the only option available. Not anymore thanks to ResportOn’s Pro Release design. It uses tiny magnets that can be released quickly, as opposed to velcro and uses dry fit materials. It has met all medical standards and criteria by IFAB.
The prototype of this headscarf was thoroughly researched, tested and re-tested. It is also affordable.

I had a few concerns regarding the initial IFAB approval. One of which was accessibility and price.
Had the scarf been designed by a large multinational company, then the product may have been too expensive for a young girl to purchase. That would had further isolated many girls from communities. Thus creating an atmosphere of privilege.
Thus far ResportON hijabs are approx $60 CDN. Hopefully the price for the new design will not be much higher. For highly competitive Muslim athletes, that can be considered as necessary as their football boots and shin guards; a part of their kit. Not a clothing item that would have to be purchased too frequently- depending on the amount of play and product care.
A large company may have tried to sell the hijab at a high-end price rendering the product which is suppose to include a minority football playing demographic, unattainable.
Another issue of concern would be whether now that a specific hijab is permitted on-field,
would all Muslim players representing Muslim countries be required or expected to wear it?
Part of the philosophy of women in sport is choice, freedom and the health benefits of play.
Forcing a woman to wear a headscarf because it is permissible by FIFA rules, would go against the spirit of women playing football.
The importance of choice whether it be to play or to wear hijab are inextricably linked.
The operative word being choice.
Now many more women around the world from varying parts will be able to represent their country in international play. The do not have to feel they have to choose between observing a part of their faith they feel is mandatory or choosing their passion for football.
There are Muslim women participating at International levels but until now, they were not permitted to play in FIFA sanctioned tournaments or games wearing a headscarf.
The result of that was equating hijab with an inability to advance to the highest level of women’s football in the world.
When FIFA issues a formal statement and introduction of said hijab, smaller clubs, national and provincial Football Organizations should follow suit and adopt a policy that they disregarded or previously avoided delving into.
Hijab-wearing women could represent Iran, Canada, France, Germany, England, Turkey, China, Afghanistan and even the United States at high levels.
It will give way to younger girls and women being allowed to play in recreational and /or in semi-competitive leagues. It will open the idea to have women participate and join in,whereby living fuller, healthier lifestyles and sharing interests.
The fact that will be far more women at trials for various clubs and communities is hugely important. Increases competition and awareness of equality within sport.
The optics of a Muslim women competing is a powerful thing. This summer the London Olympics had many Muslim women represented as participants. In fact it was the first time every nation competing had females athletes- including Muslim countries that had previously not had female competitors.
Now many Muslim countries can compete with full squads in football to what has already become an incredibly exciting sport to watch.
Canada is hosting the Women’s World Cup in 2015. It will be a time of excitement, welcome and more attention to the World’s game- particularly the Women’s game.  At that point FIFA would have fully allowed the participation of strong teams on which players wear hijab: Egypt, Iran, Yemen; rendering this a more inclusive, open and accessible sport.
I wait for a final statement from IFAB with some trepidation.
The implications of this are huge for women in the world today. Many footballers will not have to watch from the sidelines anymore.
To have Muslim women participate in the beautiful game, the world’s most popular sport, shall only heighten the majesty of the world of football which may now include all types of women- hijabi footballers included.

Picture via Meera Sethi: http://meerasethi.blogspot.ca/2011/07/introducing-fifa.html

Filed under FIFA FIFA Women's World Cup football footy girls hijab inclusion respect right2wear soccer sport team women

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The tragic triumph of Samia Yusuf Omar


Samia Yusuf Omar was an aspiring middle distance runner from Somalia. Her untimely death at sea in April 2012 cut short her Olympic dreams  and the hopes of her beloved Somalia. Samia’s is a story of resilience, strength and determination. One that deserves not to be forgotten.
Unlike other world class athletes, little information is available on one of Somalia’s strongest female athletes. 
Born and raised in Mogadishu, Samia was the eldest of six children. Gifted in physical ability, she struggled with access to proper facility, training and coaching. She had to navigate through wars, poverty, instability and inconsistent safety. In 1991, the year she was born, the Somali government fell and Mogadishu Stadium, which once hosted International events and competition, became a military compound for insurgents after housing UN special forces.  She and a few other athletes had few options other than a dilapidated Coni Stadium built in 1958 and the open road.
Duran Farah, President of the Somalia’s national Olympic Committee stated: “Sports are not a priority for Somalia. There is no money for facilities or training. The war, the security, the 
difficulties with food and everything – there are just many other internal difficulties to deal with.” 
With no adequate track to run on, Samia was forced to run in the streets. She faced many threats and much harassment from insurgents who believed that as a Muslim woman, she should not be participating in sports at all. 
Covering as she trained in public, Samia wore a hijab, sweat pants and long-sleeved shirts as not to draw ire from local soldiers. 
Samia also had few opportunities to compete at different meets in the region due to logistics and other variables such as transportation, accommodation and political instability. 
Without financial support from a National Organization, access to doctors, sports therapists or even a stipend for a proper diet, Samia continued to train without formal coaching and instruction in order to participate in the Beijing 2008 Olympics with Abdinasir Said Ibrahim a runner in the 500 m event. They were the only two athletes that were sent to represent Somalia.

Samia was a middle distance runner but she was encouraged to run the 200m in Beijing for “the experience”. She came in last in the race, at least 8 seconds behind the last runner in the event. She did not advance beyond the preliminaries. The crowd roared with appreciation as she came down the track to finish her race with pride and dignity. 
Abdi Ibrahim also finished last in his heat and did not advance. Both athletes were outclassed by their competitors but their determination and drive shone through. 
In preparation for the London Games Samia decided to move from Somalia into neighbouring Ethiopia.
An Al-Jazeera profile of Samia in 2011 confirmed that she left Somalia to find better training possibilities in Addis Abeba- a place where the sport of running is quite revered and respected. She had an opportunity to work with Eshetu Tura a former Olympian from Ethiopia. 
Without having to contend with threats to her personal safety from Al-Shabab, Samia could focus on training for London 2012.
Samia’s sister Hodan, spoke with the BBC’s Newsday Programme from Finland. She said Samia left Ethiopia and first travelled to Sudan then up to Libya. 
She arrived in Libya in September 2011; for several months we didn’t hear from her when she was lost in the Libyan desert and detained there, ” Hodan explained. “But she decided to go by boat, and we told her not to, and my mother tried to tell her not to. But Samia was very determined and asked for our mother’s forgiveness, and my mother gave it, and she took the boat, and she died.”
According to unconfirmed reports Samia perished in an incident when the Italian navy approached the boat after they ran out of petrol and they asked for help. The Italian ship threw some ropes over the side for them to catch and swim to the navy ship.Samia was one of seven people- six women and one man who died trying to get on to the Italian ship. 
It is still unclear whether Samia drowned or whether her body was recovered other than to say that she died in a “boating accident”. Reports of her death were confirmed August 20, 2012 from Somalia’s National Olympic Committee after she would have competed in the London 2012 Games. 
Unofficially, Hodan said she had heard of her sister’s death from other passengers on the boat.
Qadijo Aden Dahir, Deputy Chairman of Somalia’s National Olympic Committee, said: “It’s a sad death…She was our favourite for the London Olympics.”
ZamZam Mohamed ran in place of Samia. 
Samia faced obstacles at every juncture of her journey to compete at the highest level of athletics. 

She faced disadvantages and hurdles such as non-existent resources and trained in conditions unfathomable to other athletes from around the world.
Athletes who, generally have the cultural and financial support of their homelands. 
Samia was a courageous woman with a passion to run and an unmatched work-ethic considering her surroundings.
She overcame cultural barricades,  navigated through war-torn society, left her the comfort of her family and consistently aimed for higher goals. 
To any observer, she is everything that is fundamentally good about athletes that is often lost in the material world of consumerism and show. She is humility, determination, drive and confidence. 
Samia’s story is about more than running or participating in the Olympics. It is an opportunity to highlight an aspect that should be recognized and respected in sport: the human spirit
Samia may not have received a medal or sponsorship deals from Somalia but she was dedicated to representing her country and risked her life to prove that she could.
That is a triumph that should shine above her tragedy.

"We know that we are different from the other athletes. But we don’t want o show it. We try our best to look like the rest. We understand we are not anywhere near the level of the other competitors here. We understand that very, very well. But more than anything else, we would like to show the dignity of ourselves and out country."- Samia Yusuf Omar, 2008

Filed under Muslim Right2Wear Sports Running Somalia privilege Olympics