The Quebec Soccer Federation (QSF) recently announced that turbans will be banned from soccer fields and that those who do not like the ruling can “play in their own backyards.” From my observation this ruling has brought mostly backlash from Canadians calling the decision blatant racism. However, Rachel Decoste (writing for the Huffington Post) defends the QSF arguing “By eliminating a religious symbol, the FSQ strengthens this cherished sporting sanctuary to which congregate almost half of all Canadian kids. In this oasis, there is room for only one religion: the one called “soccer.” Aum and Amen.” I strongly disagree with Decoste’s statement and I disagree with the QSF ban, particularly since FIFA made an amendment so that Muslim girls could wear hijabs. Also, what happened to the other half of all Canadian children? Is half good enough? Decoste argues that there must be “reasonable accommodations” made by all citizens in order for us to live peacefully under one flag, which I agree with; however, I think we have to acknowledge that certain peoples are required to be more “reasonable” than others because the system was never designed for their participation. Yes Sikh’s, Muslims, Buddhists, and Christian’s alike need to be reasonable with each other, but soccer/football was created by Europeans who, at the time, probably never dreamed that they would play the game with non-Europeans. The game itself represents European influence around the globe. Thus, the rules of the game are based in history and tradition, which means that this is not a negotiation between people, necessarily, but a negotiation between tradition and modernity. Tradition and history certainly have their place in sports but you can only fight modernity for so long. Only Wimbledon has been able to hang on to tennis’ tradition of white attire, while hockey visors might become mandatory in the NHL, and swimmers can compete in sharkskin – things change. I think that the QSF needs to make the reasonable accommodation because wearing a turban while playing soccer does not alter the game of soccer one bit, it merely alters who can play.
Now here’s the funny thing. While reading the comments on Decoste’s article one commenter asked, out of curiosity, how many turbaned players are there? To which someone replied “None in India!” That got the hamster running in my head and I Googled the Indian National Soccer team to see if they have players with turbans. Here is what I found:
Indian National Soccer Team. Photo by AdGully.No turbans! Does this mean that there are no Sikhs who play on the national team or that they simply forgo the braid and turban? Then I Googled the Indian National Volleyball team:
Photo from Mediameganews.The Indian National Cricket Team:
Photo from withfriendship.comAnd the Indian National Basketball Team:
Photo from Sports Skeeda.There’s one guy on the cricket team wearing a patka (smaller version of the turban usually worn for sports) and two guys on the basketball team wearing patkas. Evidently, the turban is non-existent in Indian sports and when it is there it is the minority. Regardless, Indians play many of the sports that we do in North America and many more that we do not; therefore, we should be able to find a way for a couple of patkas to join in the fun and not merely relegate them to playing in their backyards. I don’t see anyone telling Tim Tebow that he should move his conspicuous Christian prayers to his backyard.