Hijabs approved for soccer players by FIFA

Soccer's rules-making panel has formally approved headscarves for female Muslim players, reversing a ban enforced since 2007.
FIFA has lifted a five-year ban on hijabs for soccer players, citing two prototype designs it considers safe. (CBC)

Soccer's rules-making panel has formally approved headscarves for female Muslim players, reversing a ban on the Islamic hijab that's been enforced in FIFA competitions since 2007.

On Thursday, FIFA's International Football Association Board announced the approval of two prototype designs after finding no safety threat in their use.

In the spring, the sport's rule-making body agreed to overturn the hijab ban, tentatively giving Muslim women the option of wearing sport-specific headscarves. 

Thursday's announcement comes after FIFA's medical committee tested two soccer hijab prototypes.

The ruling means Montreal fashion designer Elham Sayed Javad could soon see her design — one of the two studied — on soccer fields around the world.

Javad called her prototype's role in the decision the "biggest thing that I could have achieved."

Her soccer hijab uses a custom-made magnetic system that allows it to be opened and released instantly, if the headscarf is pulled from anywhere around the neck.

Javad, who doesn't wear a headscarf herself, told CBC News that her job as a designer is to solve problems: "Not necessarily a personal problem, but a problem that exists around you."

"I was very touched by the fact that the athletes couldn't practise because of their culture, or because of their religion. So the whole idea was to solve this problem."

Soccer rules prohibit equipment that is dangerous or makes religious statements.

FIFA vice-president Prince Ali of Jordan led a yearlong campaign to overturn the ban and allow Muslim women to play the game. Iran and Saudi Arabia make the headscarf mandatory for women in public.

Last year, Iran forfeited qualifying matches for the London Olympics because of the headscarf ban.

Although the headscarf ban is now lifted, and FIFA found no problems with the tested models, the federation said it will eventually choose one version to use with official soccer uniforms. That decision is expected in October.

With files from The Associated Press