Pakistan, Afganistan praise Fifa move to lift ban on head coverings

Officials from both countries said the lifting of a ban on head coverings would allow more Islamic girls access to the game.

The International Football Association Board and Fifa have agreed to lift a ban on religious head coverings, opening up more opportunities for Muslim women to play football. Amir Poormand / ISNA / AFP
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Pakistani and Afghan sports officials have hailed a decision by football's world governing body to lift a ban on head coverings, saying this will allow more Islamic girls to take up the sport.

Fifa on Saturday officially authorised the wearing of head covers for religious purposes during matches, allowing women who wear a veil in everyday life to cover their heads during matches and men to wear turbans.

Rukhsana Rashid, the captain of the all-women’s Dia club in Pakistan’s southern province of Sindh, said Monday the move would help the sport to grow.

“I want to pay my gratitude to Fifa because this will allow female players from remote areas to take up the game because their parents were not allowing them without their head covered,” she said.

Saadia Shaikh, secretary of the Sindh’s women’s football association, added it was a “very good decision for female players from Islamic countries”.

Former military ruler General Pervez Musharraf cleared the way for women’s events at national level in 2005.

In all, nine national women’s football championships have been held and the country now boasts 22 women’s football clubs with around 400 players.

But male spectators unaccompanied by female relatives are banned from entering the stadium.

In neighbouring Afghanistan, Mohammad Yousuf, a senior official in the Afghanistan football federation, said the decision “shows respect to the culture and religion of others. This is respect and tolerance and we in Afghanistan welcome this.”

“If it was not allowed, this could be a problem for Afghan women and for the women in the Islamic world in general,” he added.

The Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan from 1996-2001, allowed only men’s football but sometimes used the national football ground in Kabul to carry out public executions before matches.

Pakistan’s women’s team will start a training camp next month to tune up for friendly home and away matches against Qatar.

Pakistan will host the South Asian Football Federation cup in December this year, with neighbouring countries like Afghanistan, India, Bangladesh and Nepal expected to feature. Both men and women will compete.

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