FIFA Allows Religious Head Coverings

Jewish players will be allowed to wear kippahs at world soccer games, after FIFA lifts a ban on head covers for religious purposes.

Elad Benari ,

Israel news photo: Flah 90

Jewish players will be allowed to don kippahs (yarmulkes) at world soccer games, after FIFA officially authorized on Saturday the wearing of head covers for religious purposes during matches.

“It was decided that female players can cover their heads to play,” said FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke at a meeting of the International Football Association Board (IFAB), the sport’s lawmakers, in Zurich, according to an AFP report.

That will allow female Muslim players who wear a veil in everyday life to cover their heads during matches, and Valcke added that male players will also be authorized to do so, meaning Jewish, Muslim and other head-coverings will be allowed.

The decision was made following a request from the Sikh community of Canada.

“It was decided that male players can play with head cover too,” he said, although they will not be the same as those worn day to day.

”It will be a basic head cover and the color should be the same as the team jersey,” added Valcke, according to AFP.

The wearing of head covers had been banned until 2012, with FIFA saying that they posed too great a risk of injury to the head or neck.

However, the IFAB then allowed for them to be tested out over a two-year period following a request from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), a trial which proved to be successful.

“It’s a worldwide authorization,” said Valcke, who confirmed that the hosting of the 2016 women’s under-17 World Cup by the Arab kingdom of Jordan played a part in the authorization being introduced.

“It was a plus for them to have authorization from the IFAB for women to be able to play (wearing head covers). It was a request from these (Muslim) countries that said it would help support women’s football there.”

Two months ago, the Israel Football Association released updated guidelines which forbade religious soccer players from wearing a kippah (yarmulke) on the field.

The ruling came during discussion over the case of striker Yair Cohen Tzedek, a player on the Maccabi Yafo Kabilyo team, who requested to wear a kippah while playing.

Referees ruled that for "reasons of unity," Cohen Tzedek will be required to remove his kippah before taking the pitch, or else not play.

The decision was met with outrage, and the association subsequently responded to the public pressure and cancelled the prohibition.

Cohen Tzedek was later honored by Shas party chairman Aryeh Deri, who commended his for “fighting for Jewish identity” on the soccer field.

Meanwhile, AFP reported, the French Football Federation (FFF) said Saturday it would continue to ban the wearing of head covers out of respect to France’s status as a secular country, despite the FIFA decision.

In a statement sent to the news agency, the FFF said it will maintain “the prohibition of the wearing of all religious or confessional symbols.”

This is due to the “constitutional and legislative principles of secularism that prevail in our country and figure in its statutes.”