The Quebec Soccer Federation (QSF) announced it has reversed its ban on players wearing turbans or related religious headwear on the pitch, saying it is pleased with the international soccer body's clarification on the issue, and it's "deeply sorry" if anyone was offended.
At a news conference in the federation's Laval, Que. headquarters, QSF executive-director Brigitte Frot said they are asking all referees in the province to allow turbans and similar head coverings like patkas and keski, as advised by FIFA — the Fédération Internationale de Football Association.
"Our goal was always to have confirmation that the wearing of a turban was allowed by FIFA. And of course, we're delighted that FIFA was able to answer our questions and remove any ambiguity," said Frot.
In response to the lifting of the turban ban, the Canadian Soccer Association has ended its suspension of the Quebec Federation which was imposed on June 10.
"As the governing body of soccer in Canada we will continue to take all necessary measures to ensure the integrity of our game, our membership, and players," Victor Montagliani, President of the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) in a statement.
The CSA initially issued a directive in April to all its provincial and territorial member associations, instructing them to allow male players to wear head scarves. The Quebec federation was suspended because it was the only member to not follow the directive.
QSF says language barrier caused confusion
Frot said miscommunication forced the federation into a religious debate, when the federation's only concern was the safety of players.
"We have had trouble communicating our intentions to the public, especially in recent days," said Frot. "If we offended or shocked people — particularly in the English community — we want you to know that it wasn’t intentional and we want to make a sincere apology for that."
Frot had earlier faced criticism for saying players who chose to disobey the turban ban "can play in their backyard. But not with official referees, not in the official rules of soccer."
Frot, whose first language is French, says her comments were misinterpreted when she spoke in English.
FIFA approval met "with enthusiasm and relief"
Yesterday, the federation said it welcomed "with enthusiasm and relief" word from FIFA that turbans may be worn as long as they pose no safety issues and are the same colour as team jerseys.
The Quebec organization had cited safety issues for its ban, along with the fact that the garments were not endorsed by FIFA.
FIFA responded that the head coverings are allowed — on a trial basis for the time being.
FIFA said in a statement it is temporarily authorizing the wearing of male head covers at all levels of Canadian soccer, effectively applying a 2012 ruling that allowed specially designed hijabs for women.
The issue will be discussed further in October by the International Football Association Board (IFAB), which determines the rules of the game, and a final decision is expected in March 2014.
Racist depiction 'disgraceful,' premier says
The turban issue took on a political life of its own, with Quebec Premier Pauline Marois and her opponents all weighing in.
Yesterday, Marois called it "disgraceful" that many groups and individuals in the rest of Canada depicted the Quebec Soccer Federation's ban on turbans as racist.
"We know that it’s not the Quebec reality. And in many countries in the world there are different rules that apply, and we respect one another. And me, I find it sad and it’s a shame and it’s reprehensible," said Marois.