Soccer turban dispute affecting players of all ages
Youth teams cancel tournament play, oldtimers' games postponed
The Canadian Soccer Association's suspension of the Quebec Soccer Federation over its refusal to allow turban-wearing players is having an impact on soccer players of all ages, as more and more regularly scheduled games are postponed or cancelled, and tournament organizers are left scrambling.
Twenty Ontario teams have cancelled plans to participate in a youth tournament on Montreal's West Island this weekend.
"The players from Quebec, they're still playing in the tournament," said Edouard Saint-Lo, president of the Lac St-Louis Soccer Association, which is organizing the tournament. "The ones from Ontario are very disappointed that they're not coming, because this is an international tournament."
Saint-Lo says he is scrambling to fill the newly available spots with teams from Quebec.
Oldtimers' games postponed
Quebec teams that usually play in Ontario are also being affected.
Oldtimers' teams in Gatineau and Chelsea, Que., just north of Ottawa, have received word from the Ottawa-Carleton Soccer League that their games have been postponed until further notice.
The league's office manager, Shanna Slater, said the 12 Quebec teams play in a number of divisions, so the postponed games affect many Ontario teams as well.
"We're not cancelling games yet," said Slater. "We have a drop-dead date after which we will have to cancel.
"All governing bodies are working together to mitigate this," she said. "For now, the action is to postpone games and revisit the situation next week."
"I'm outraged," said National Post reporter John Ivison, who plays on the Chelsea team. "I mean, I was outraged as a journalist and a Canadian, and now I'm outraged as a soccer player."
Ivison lays the blame squarely on the Quebec Soccer Federation for its turban ban.
"Whoever made this decision on their part are half-wits, and they've brought the beautiful game into disrepute in Quebec," he said.
Some defy turban ban
"It's just disappointing how this is affecting all the different levels of soccer," said Naomi Hasegawa, a senior women's player, as she and her teammates practised in Dorval, on Montreal's West Island.
The league Hasegawa plays in is hoping to host the over-35 national championship in Quebec City later this summer, but now that seems less likely.
"Soccer season is just starting," she said. "It would be nice to have this resolved quickly."
Elsewhere on Montreal's West Island, some local soccer associations are now saying they will openly defy the turban ban and welcome players wearing turbans onto the pitch.
Both the Quebec Soccer Federation and the Canadian Soccer Association continue to refuse to answer questions about the dispute.
It's still not clear how the suspension might affect soccer teams participating in the Canada Games, which are scheduled for August in Sherbrooke, Que.
An official with the games says he still hasn't received an answer from the Canadian Soccer Association, but he hopes to discuss the matter with the association later today.