KUALA LUMPUR: Asian football’s governing body Friday welcomed the decision to lift a ban on women wearing headscarves during games, saying the move was “in keeping with the times”.
The International Football Association Board (IFAB) Thursday overturned its 2007 ban on the Islamic headscarf, or hijab, which it had previously argued was unsafe and increased the risk of neck injuries.
Critics said the ban promoted inequality at the highest level of the world’s most popular game and pointed out that new designs of headscarf secured with Velcro had eliminated the risk of serious injury.
Asian Football Confederation acting president Zhang Jilong said in a statement that lifting the ban was the “right thing” to do and “a move in keeping with the times”.
“I am very happy to hear that the ban on headscarves has been lifted. On behalf of the AFC executive committee and the Asian football family, I commend the IFAB and FIFA for doing the right thing,” Zhang said.
“The lifting of the ban will allow thousands of women players, who wear headscarves, to play the game.”
He added that the headscarf was “more of a cultural symbol than a religious one”.
Zhang is currently in Kuwait City to attend the final match of the AFC Futsal Club Championship. AFC’s headquarters are in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Muslim-majority Malaysia.
The world governing body came under pressure to lift the ban in 2007, after an 11-year-old girl in Canada was prevented from wearing a hijab for safety reasons.
In 2011, the Iranian team was disqualified for refusing to remove their headscarves moments before kick-off in the 2012 Olympic second round qualifying match against Jordan.