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Quebec Soccer Team Wears Turbans To Protest Ban & Support Sikh Players
June 11, 2013
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Aneel Samra, 18, is one of the players affected by Quebec Soccer Federation ban on turbans

They call it the beautiful game, but right now in Quebec, the sport of soccer is going through some ugly times.

The Quebec Soccer Federation (QSF) has been suspended from Canada's national association over its ban on turbans.

Officials in Quebec have refused to let children who wear turbans play, saying they're a safety hazard.

They also point out that FIFA - soccer's world governing body - doesn't specifically allow turbans. However, FIFA's rules don't explicitly ban them, either.

Last week, the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) said it expected the Quebec organization to overturn the ban and last night, announced the suspension.

"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," said CSA president Victor Montagliani in a statement.

The CSA says the suspension will be in effect until the turban ban is lifted.

This past weekend, a team in Brossard, Quebec decided to protest the ban by symbolically wearing turbans during a game.

The team, aged 14 and under, doesn't have any Sikh boys on it, but the other players wanted to stand up for them in a show of solidarity.

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(Photo: Pierre Obendrauf, Montreal Gazette)

So, with the support of the players and parents, their coach went to a Sikh temple in LaSalle and borrowed 20 orange scarves - which the boys wore as turbans during a game against Granby.

They lost 2-1 but their coach Ihab Leheta said "I was so proud of them. (They understood) that today it's Sikhs (being banned) and tomorrow it'll be someone else."

It's not clear what impact the suspension will have, if things aren't settled. But ultimately, other players could lose out too.

According to Canadian Soccer News, all-star teams from Quebec might not be able to play outside the province, and games in Quebec that involve a nationally certified referee could be cancelled.

Dr. Sanjeet Singh Saluja, a doctor and former coach who criticized the ban, put it this way.

"Unfortunately, that means soccer players are being punished for something that the Quebec Soccer Federation should have corrected right away."

Singh and other doctors have publicly said there's no medical evidence that turbans are of any danger to players.

A spokeswoman for the Quebec federation told the BBC it hasn't done safety studies on turbans, because it doesn't have the money. She also said she wasn't aware of any related injuries in Quebec leagues.

In fact, according to the Montreal Gazette, there hasn't been one turban-related soccer injury reported to a hospital in Canada.

The Quebec federation is the only provincial soccer organization in the country that has banned the turban. As a result, Sikh groups say as many as 200 young players won't be playing this season.

One of those players is 18 year old Aneel Samra (below). For the first time in 11 years, he won't be playing because of the ban.

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"All Sikh children in Quebec are confused. Everywhere in Canada you're allowed to play but not in Quebec," Samra told The Canadian Press.

The World Sikh Organization of Canada said the entire situation is totally unnecessary and senseless.

"Whereas Sikh children were initially the victims of the QSF's decision to uphold the ban on the turban, it is now doubly unfortunate that so many other soccer players in Quebec will also have to suffer the consequences," said WSO President Prem Singh Vinning in a statement.

Earlier this month, in defending the ban, the Quebec federation said Sikh boys can "play in their backyard."

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney applauded the Canadian Soccer Association for handing down the suspension.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau agreed.

via CBC News

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