Jordan's Prince Ali Shocked by Fresh FIFA Hijab Concerns
May 25, 2012
Jordan's Prince Ali bin al-Hussein, pictured in Budapest today. (WFI)
(WFI) FIFA vice president Prince Ali of Jordan has hit back at claims made by the medical chief of football's governing body that headscarves worn by female Muslim footballers represent a significant health risk.
FIFA's medical committee chairman Michel D'Hooghe yesterday told FIFA’s medical conference in Budapest that women who wear the hijab in football matches could suffer head and neck injuries, or overheat.
He raised question marks around two designs - one produced by a Dutch company which uses quick-release velcro fasteners, the other by a Canadian firm is based on a magnet system.
Ali today told a group of reporters on Friday that the comments came as a "complete shock" to him.
"We have covered all the issues including heat coming out of the head, breathable material and the neck issue," said Ali, who has led a high-profile campaign to scrap FIFA's ban on women wearing headscarves over the past year. The ban was imposed in 2007 over choking fears.
Football's rule-making body, the International Football Association Board, had been expected to approve the hijab at its next meeting on July 5 in Zurich pending further medical testing. The IFAB unanimously approved the lifting of the hijab ban "pending an accelerated review, of health and safety issues" at a meeting in London in March.
Now D'Hooghe's remarks have brought fresh concerns to the debate.
Speaking soon after the FIFA Congress had closed, Ali said he was concerned that "there is no seriousness in the testing, or no desire".
"If they have serious medical concerns let them go and present them to the IFAB," added Ali, who replaced South Korea's Chung Mong-Joon as Asia's FIFA vice president in AFC elections last year.
"I hope this issue will be treated with the same respect and dignity that other issues are treated with including goal-line technology," said Ali, who at 36 is the youngest member of the FIFA executive.
"I'm hoping that at the very least the IFAB will allow for a proper evaluation and that means allowing these players to play in the field. If the medical committee and FIFA wants to monitor then let them do it," he added.
Ali claimed FIFA's medical committee had no proper research on the subject. But with female Muslim footballers allowed to wear the headscarves in games under the jurisdiction of the world's football confederations, he insisted: "I know for certain there have been no reported cases of injuries".
D'Hooghe's call for new headscarf designs have also shocked the two companies behind the designs of the headscarves, Ali indicated.
Medical Opinion Supports Hijab Use
An independent medical opinion from a US clinic backs up Ali's opinion that the two designs are both safe.
"There is no reason to believe that a light headscarf with breakaway attachments, such as Velcro or magnets, would exert effective occlusive pressure simultaneously on both carotid arteries such as occurs when a choke hold is used in Judo or hand to hand combat," the specialist at the heart and vascular institute writes in a letter to Prince Ali.
"In summary, there is no medical basis to prevent women from playing football with sports headscarfs that are designed for quick release in the event of inadvertent contact," he went on.
"My opinion is substantiated by lack of reports in the medical literature documenting injuries to the neck, trachea, or carotid arteries while wearing headscarfs. Moreover, based on my assessment of anatomy and physiology, I have no concerns about the potential risk of this happening."
Any delay in approval of the hijab by the IFAB could have serious implications for teams taking part in the FIFA U17 Women's World Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan in September.
The IFAB's eight members, who include representatives from FIFA and the four British football associations, were supposed to meet in Kyiv on July 2. But the meeting has moved for logistical reasons. Approval of the headscarf and goal-line technology are the two key agenda items.
By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson in Budapest
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