The French Football Federation has banned women wearing hijabs from football matches, although FIFA has allowed them.A group of Muslim players is battling what it sees as discriminatory rules.
It happened again on a recent Saturday afternoon in Sarcelles, a northern suburb of Paris.Her amateur team went to a local club, and Diakite, a 23-year-old Muslim midfielder, feared she would not be allowed to wear a hijab.
This time, the referee let her in.”It worked,” she said at the end of the game, leaning against the fence on the edge of the court, her smiling face wrapped in a black Nike hood.
For years, the French Football Federation has banned prominent religious symbols such as the headscarf from players participating in matches, a rule it believes is in line with the organization’s strict secular values.Although the ban is enforced loosely at the amateur level, it has hung over Muslim women’s football for years, shattering their career hopes and driving some away from the game altogether.
In a more multicultural France, where women’s football is booming, the ban has sparked growing opposition.At the forefront of this fight is Les Hijabeuses, a group of young hijab-clad footballers from different teams who have united against what they say are discriminatory rules that exclude Muslim women from sport.
Their activism has touched a nerve in France, reviving a heated debate over Muslim integration into a country plagued by ties to Islam and underscoring French sports authorities’ struggle to defend strict secular values against a growing demand for more The struggle between the calls for grand representation.field.
“What we want is to be accepted to live up to these grand slogans of diversity, inclusion,” said Founé Diawara, president of the 80-member Les Hijabeuses. “Our only wish is to play football.”
The Hijabeuses collective was formed in 2020 with the help of researchers and community organizers to solve a paradox: Although French law and world football governing body FIFA allow female athletes to play in the hijab, the French Football Federation prohibits it, arguing that it would Violating the principle of religious neutrality on the field.
Proponents of the ban say the hijab heralds Islamic radicalisation taking over sport.But the personal stories of Hijabeuses members underscore how football has become synonymous with liberation – and how the ban continues to feel like a step backwards.
Diakite started playing soccer at the age of 12, initially viewed by her parents as a boy’s sport.”I want to be a professional football player,” she said, calling it a “dream”.
Her current coach, Jean-Claude Njehoya, said that “at a young age she had a lot of skills” that could have propelled her to the highest level.But “from that moment on” she understood how the hijab ban would affect her, he said, “and she didn’t really push herself further.”
Diakite said she herself decided to wear a hijab in 2018 — and gave up on her dream.She now plays for a tier 3 club and has plans to start a driving school.”No regrets,” she said.”Either I’m accepted or I’m not. That’s it.”
Kasom Dembele, a 19-year-old midfielder with a nose ring, also said she had to confront her mother to be allowed to play.She soon joined a sports-intensive program in middle school and competed in club tryouts.But it wasn’t until she learned of the ban four years ago that she realized she might no longer be allowed to compete.
“I managed to bring my mother down and I was told the federation would not let me play,” Dembele said.”I told myself: what a joke!”
Other members of the group recalled episodes when referees barred them from the pitch, prompting some to feel humiliated, quit football and turn to sports that allow or tolerate hijabs, such as handball or futsal.
Throughout last year, Les Hijabeuses lobbied the French Football Federation to overturn the ban.They sent letters, met with officials, and even held protests at the federation’s headquarters — to no avail.The federation declined to comment for this article.
In January, a group of conservative senators tried to codify the football federation’s hijab ban, arguing that hijabs threaten to spread radical Islam in sports clubs.The move reflects France’s longstanding dissatisfaction with the Muslim veil, which has often been controversial.In 2019, a French store dropped plans to sell hoods designed for runners after a barrage of criticism.
Thanks to the efforts of the senators, Les Hijabeuses launched an intense lobbying campaign against the amendment.Leveraging their strong social media presence – the group has nearly 30,000 followers on Instagram – they launched a petition that collected over 70,000 signatures; brought dozens of sports personalities to their causes ; and organize competitions with professional athletes in front of the Senate building.
Former France midfielder Vikas Dorasu, who played in the game, said he was left dumbfounded by the ban.”I just don’t get it,” he said.”The target here is Muslims.”
Senator Stefan Piednoll, the senator behind the amendment, denied allegations that the legislation specifically targeted Muslims, saying it focused on all prominent religious symbols.But he acknowledged that the amendment was motivated by the wearing of the Muslim veil, which he called a “propaganda tool” and a form of “visual preaching” for political Islam.(Pidenova also condemned the display of Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar’s Catholic tattoos as “unfortunate” and wondered if the religious ban should extend to them.)
The amendment was ultimately rejected by the government’s majority in parliament, though not without friction.Paris police banned a protest organised by Les Hijabeuses, and the French sports minister said the law allowed women wearing hijabs to compete, but clashed with government colleagues who oppose hijabeuses.
The hijab fight may not be popular in France, where six in 10 support a ban on the hijab on the streets, according to a recent survey by polling firm CSA.Marine Le Pen, the far-right presidential candidate who will face President Emmanuel Macron in a runoff vote on April 24 — with a shot at a final victory — has said that if elected, she will ban the Muslim veil in public spaces.
“No one would mind them playing it,” said Sarceles player Rana Kenar, 17, who came to watch her team face Diaki on a chilly February evening special club.
Kenner sat in the stands with about 20 companions.All said they saw the ban as a form of discrimination, noting that it was laxly enforced at the amateur level.
Even the referee of the Sarcelles game that brought Diakett on appeared to be at odds with the ban.”I look on the other side,” he said, refusing to give his name for fear of repercussions.
Pierre Samsonov, former vice-president of the amateur chapter of the Football Federation, said the issue will inevitably resurface in the coming years as women’s football develops and the 2024 Paris Olympics take place, when there will be more masked athletes country.
Samsonoff, who initially defended the hijab ban, said he has since softened his stance, acknowledging that the policy could end up ostracizing Muslim players.”The question is whether our decision to ban it in the field has worse consequences than a decision to allow it,” he said.
Senator Pidnoll said the players are rejecting themselves.But he admitted never speaking to any of the hooded athletes to understand their motives, likening the situation to a “firefighter” being asked to “listen to a pyromaniac”.
Dembele, who manages the Hijabeuses social media account, said she was often shocked by the violence of online comments and the fierce political opposition.
“We persevered,” she said.”It’s not just for us, but for the young girls who can dream of playing for France, Paris Saint-Germain tomorrow”
Post time: May-19-2022