x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

AFC head says head covering ruling ‘will give a big boost’ to women’s football in West Asia

The AFC official, Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain, praised the decision by Fifa and Ifab to lift a ban of head coverings that had been a deterrence to Muslim female participation in football.

Asian football authorities claimed success Tuesday after the sport’s governing body allowed women to wear headscarves for competitive matches, saying the move will benefit women’s football in Muslim-majority West Asia.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) welcomed Saturday’s decision by Fifa and rule-makers the International Football Association Board (Ifab) to allow female players to cover their heads after two years of testing a safe headscarf design.

“Women’s football is still at the beginning stage in West Asia but I hope that it (the ruling) will give a big boost as the member associations will be able to field teams in international events,” said AFC president Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain in a statement.

He added that AFC had been at the forefront of the issue and had made a strong case for the ban to be lifted with the safe headscarf designs.

Fifa said male players would also be authorised to cover their heads following a request from the Sikh community of Canada.

The wearing of head covers had been banned until 2012, with Fifa saying they posed too great a risk of injury to the head or neck.

However, the Ifab then allowed them to be tested over a two-year period following a request from the AFC.

Not all countries have supported the decision, with the French Football Federation saying they would continue to ban the wearing of head covers out of respect to France’s status as a secular country.