Dubai: The decision by world footballing authorities to overturn a ban on women football players wearing the hijab (headscarf ) was welcomed by several Arab states on Thursday.
The International Football Association Board (IFAB), custodians of the rules of football, overturned its 2007 ban on the hijab, which it had argued was unsafe and increased the risk of neck injuries. New designs are secured with Velcro that experts have said eliminate the risk of serious injury.
Critics said the ban promoted inequality at the highest level of the world’s most popular game.
“This decision, impatiently awaited, makes us very happy,” said Shaikha Naima Al Sabah, the president of the women’s sporting committee for Kuwait’s football federation.
“It brings justice to female players. Its positive impact will be direct on Kuwaiti women’s enthusiasm to play football,” Shaikha Naima added.
The Kuwaiti women’s football team, like those of the UAE, Qatar and Bahrain, plays in various international competitions.
Oman does not field a women’s team, neither does Saudi Arabia.
Riyadh has yet to confirm if it will send any women athletes to compete in the London Olympics, and Saudi officials declined to comment to AFP on FIFA’s scrapping of the hijab ban.
Sabah said Fifa’s decision establishes new “respect for different religions, with the veil ban being until now a barrier for Kuwaiti women”.
Iran was at the forefront of the fight against the veil ban. It had complained to Fifa after its women’s team was banned in June 2011 from playing in a qualifier against Jordan for the London Olympics.