The FSQ and turbans: In life, as in soccer, truth is best

Why terms like ‘safety’ mask the ban’s true intent


Ryan Remiorz/CP

If only there were scads of Sikh kids injuring themselves and/or others with the thin piece of cotton and string attached to their heads. If only one player had injured himself by, say, having his balance thrown off or his depth perception skewed by his religious (and not perspiration-related) headgear. If only turbans bit opposing players, or scored goals on their own net, or deflated soccer balls on contact.

Were this the case, you’d be reading a different column. You’d hear how we need to eliminate the turban scourge from the game, so bless the Fédération de soccer du Québec for taking the initiative. Better to nip it in the bud before a turban tears a chunk out of an opposing player’s thigh.

Instead, you are going to read how the FSQ decision to ban turbans is the height of cowardice. It’s okay to take issue with religious emblems in sport, and it is a worthy and brave organization that says anything of the sort has no place on the pitch. But in banning the turban for vague, completely unsubstantiated reasons of “safety,” the FSQ attempted to tread into fraught religious waters without getting wet.

For the record, turbans aren’t dangerous. A kirpan? Yes, which is why FIFA bans such things. (“A player must not use equipment or wear anything that is dangerous to himself or another player.”) Players can wear turbans for the same reason they can drink green Gatorade or flaunt their tattoos: doing so isn’t against the rules.

Let’s call the FSQ ban what it is: a continuation of the ongoing and seemingly endless debate over religion’s place in Quebec society. It is a worthwhile debate to be had, and the FSQ would have gone a long way by simply saying soccer players in Quebec will play the game with their heads uncovered. Why? Because team sports should emphasize universality, not draw attention to individual members. Because religion has no place in sport. Because it’s a slippery slope from turbans to genital mutilation. (You laugh, but many of the arguments against the accommodation of religious minorities are of the “where will it stop?” variety, in which head coverings are seen as gateways to more extreme religious practices.)

Instead, FSQ administrators throw out weasel words like “safety” to mask the intent of the ban. They might have said: “Want to play soccer in Quebec? Uncover your head — not because that wee piece of fabric is a danger, but because those are the rules. Don’t like them? Try cricket, or move to Ontario.” In life, as in soccer, FSQ administrators would have had way more credibility if they had just told the truth. They didn’t.


The FSQ and turbans: In life, as in soccer, truth is best

  1. “Let’s call the FSQ ban what it is: a continuation of the ongoing and seemingly endless debate over religion’s place in Quebec society.”

    From where I am sitting here in Ontario, the debate is driven by xenophobic francophones – Que is only jurisdiction in North America with ethnic nationalist party like PQ – who are scared of modern world. When Trudeau talks about ‘us’ or Quebec, he means white francophones, not guys in turbans.

    White francophones will be generous and let the brown people play soccer in their own backyards, but nowhere else.
    Globe/Mail – June 2013

    The QSF’s public statements to justify its decision have bordered on the comical. Director-general Brigitte Frot said turbans could be dangerous for players’ safety, although she couldn’t cite a single incident to back that up …..

    It stopped being comedic, however, when Ms. Frot said something that probably offered insight into how she and other members of the QSF really feel: “They can play in their backyard. But not with official referees, not in the official rules of soccer.”

    • Well said!

  2. this article was poorly thought out and badly presented. First of all, a single injury shouldn’t dictate the policy regarding turbans – it should certainly be taken into account, but it shouldn’t be the only factor in making the call.

    And the sentence “Players can wear turbans for the same reason they can drink green Gatorade” is sloppy for several reasons. If one is taking into account Charter-supported human rights laws in Canada, in fact there is a very very good reason a player COULD wear a turban even if he were prevented, from drinking Gatorade of any colour. (if the author is talking about the issue while leaving out human rights, he should have made this odd choice clear). Now the previous sentence leads one to believe that he is considering FIFA rules alone, but it my understanding that the entire matter is based on the idea the FIFA rule is NOT clear. The author gives the impression he is not aware of this. It would have been easy to write “I disagree with Quebec’s interpretation of the rule”.

    Furthermore, the following sentences are statements which are not backed up by any evidence, They may very well be the author’s opinion, but that should be made clear:

    “Because team sports should emphasize universality, not draw attention to
    individual members. Because religion has no place in sport.”

    • You didn’t read the article. You skimmed it. He was stating that their ban was stupid and cowardly. You missed statements like, the “FSQ administrators throw our weasel words like ‘safety’ to mask the intent of the ban.” Which is the thesis of this article. It is not badly research, you just need to critically read better. Take a longer time to read and then comment.

      • I have no doubt the author is on top of the situation my only issue is presentation. But as I understand it the Quebec soccer people also say their ban is in agreement with the rules. As a layreader i think that should be acknowledged so that instead of reading as “the rules say X so QFA is wrong”, it would be “Quebec disagrees with Canada regarding FIFA interpretation, but the rules say X so Quebec’s position is wrong.” It may be a small difference but I think it would have been a style improvement.

        If that had been my only point I would probably not have replied, but altogether I felt the article fell below the writing standards I’m used to seeing in MacLeans (and by M. Patriquin himself, I should hasten to add.)

        • Pedantic much?

          • I like to think not, which is why this article struck me the way it did.

    • The FIFA rule is “not clear” in as far as it doesn’t explicitly state that a turban can be worn during play. There are lots of things that aren’t explicitly stated that can be worn however, like brown shoes with green laces. But, they’ve also allowed the hijab to be worn during play. Is it really too much to ask that if a hijab has been deemed not dangerous that a turban would be any different?

      Of course, Quebec being Quebec, they’re now asking FIFA to do a study on the turban, and will obviously demand it be explicitly stated in the rules. And I’ve no doubt that FIFA will do that.

      But in the mean time, you’ve got a Quebec organization that is clearly being discriminatory and is hiding behind technicalities and obfuscation in order to justify it. But it’s still blatant discrimination.

      • That sounds germane and also as I have heard it. I think it should have been included in the article as a bit of background rather than jumping to “this is the rule”

        I do think the policy is discriminatory under our human rights laws and should be taken to a human rights tribunal if the soccer people will not change their minds. Much like the way the CPC forces women to remove religious face coverings to take the citizenship oath, it is odious and has no place in our society.

        • Right, now this, and then, what will they want? pink pompom in their shoes, Canada is Canada, go by our rules or bye-bye

          • The I in FIFA stands for International, so I’m afraid your little rant is not only moot but misdirected and says more about you than it does about kids wanting to play football.

      • The FIFA rule also doesn’t explicitly say that French can be spoken during play, so does that mean Alberta can ban all French speakers from playing. After all communications is key and a failure to communicate in close contact situations is a safety issue.
        This is silly and usually in law unless it says you can’t do something, then you can.

        • This comment was deleted.

          • Obviously a thought experiment in logic is a bit beyond a petty (or should that be a petite) racist like you.
            Conflicted and stupid is no way to go through life

  3. I would not have minded the FSQ ban if they had eliminated all religious iconography and displays from the pitch. They did not. They targeted one specific religious (and ethnic) group. It’s shameful, and I’m proud of the Canadian Soccer Federation for suspending the FSQ over this poorly-disguised racism.

  4. “It’s a slippery slope from turbans to genital mutilation”… Really? If that’s the argument, I can see why the FSQ went with “safety.”

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