US & Canada

Quebec soccer federation gets red card for banning turban

Indian Sikh members praying after a turban-tying ceremony known as 'dastar bandi', traditionally held to mark the coming of age of male Sikhs, at a temple in Amritsar 7 July 2012
Image caption Sikh males, such as those seen here in India, don the turban as a religious requirement

The Quebec Soccer Federation has been suspended from Canada's national football organisation over its ban on turbans on the pitch, the groups said.

The Canadian Soccer Association said it had to intervene as its Quebec branch showed no sign of changing the policy.

The Quebec group said turbans were a safety hazard and global football body, Fifa, did not explicitly allow them.

Quebec's premier Pauline Marois defended the Quebec federation, saying it could set its own rules.

"I believe that the Quebec federation had the right to establish their own regulations," Ms Marois said on Tuesday. "They are autonomous and they are not liable to the Canadian federation."

Canadian Sikh groups estimate the ban has stopped 200 children playing in federated leagues this year.

"The Canadian Soccer Association has requested on 6 June that the Quebec Soccer Federation reverse its position on turbans/patkas/keski with no resolution," said Victor Montagliani, president of the Canadian Soccer Association, in a statement.

"The Quebec Soccer Federation's inaction has forced us to take measures in order to ensure soccer remains accessible to the largest number of Canadians."

Image caption Young players in Quebec must have already registered to play in the current season

The Canadian Soccer Association has said it would only lift the suspension once it has proof the turban ban has ended.

Earlier this month, a Quebec Soccer Federation official defended the ban on turbans for players in its youth leagues, saying Sikh boys "can play in their backyard".

A spokeswoman said the federation had not conducted safety studies on turbans, as the organisation did not have funds for one. She was unaware of any related injuries in the province's leagues.

The ban on turbans came despite the Canadian Soccer Association allowing hijabs, or Islamic headscarves, as well as turbans, on the pitch.

Quebec's federation is the only provincial soccer organisation in the country that has banned the turban.

The World Sikh Organization of Canada said earlier it was considering a legal challenge, but said the season was already lost for many young players, as the registration deadline had passed.

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