Quebec soccer association upholds ban on turbans on the playing field

MONTREAL – The Quebec Soccer Federation announced Sunday it has decided to keep a ban against players wearing turbans on the field.

The federation began cracking down on turbans — the religious headgear worn by Sikhs — in the past few years.

Referees who don’t apply the rule could face penalties of their own.

In April the Canadian Soccer Association asked provincial associations to allow turbans on the field.

The Quebec federation said in a statement that its decision is in line with the position of the international soccer organization FIFA, which has yet to take a clear stand on the issue.

The federation said it would lift the ban immediately if FIFA decides to.

Members of the Sikh community, however, say FIFA’s position is beside the point.

Balpreet Singh, a spokesman for the World Sikh Organization of Canada, said FIFA is responsible for major international tournaments, while the Quebec Soccer Federation oversees recreational leagues.

“We’re talking about kids having fun,” Singh said in an interview, adding he was “very disappointed” with the ruling.

The organization is exploring its options and is considering taking legal action, he said.

Between 100 and 200 soccer players are affected by the ruling.

Singh said Quebec is the only province where Sikh soccer players have faced problems because they wear a turban.

It’s not first time religious headgear on the soccer field has been the source of controversy in the province.

Quebec, which has been the site of heated debate over “reasonable accommodation” of minorities, banned a teen in 2011 from working as a soccer referee while wearing a hijab.

The statement from the Quebec Soccer Federation noted that girls are now permitted to wear headscarves on the field in Quebec, following a directive from FIFA in 2012.