Illustration: soccer
Illustration: soccerFlash 90

The Israel Football Association released updated guidelines on Thursday, in which they forbid 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.

In response, spokesman for the team Ron Amikam, expressed his disappointment to the sports site One.

"We don't understand how Yair Cohen Tzedek disturbs the club's games when he wears a kippah," said Amikam. "It cannot be that in the state of the Jews they will take off a kippah for whatever reason."

Amikam added that "a country that works to draft all yeshiva students to the IDF needs to guard their faith and their customs."

"There are enough religious players in the lower leagues and the Association gives privileges for them to continue playing," noted Amikam. "They have no other framework, there's no other Association, and there are no other laws of the country."

"It would be better for the Referees' Union to rethink the decision and at least allow religious Jews to play in some kind of limited framework," added Amikam. "A kippah is certainly a religious symbol, and in the democratic state of Israel it is forbidden to discriminate based on race, gender or religion."

Amikam pledged the support of Maccabi Yafo Kabilyo for any decision Cohen Tzedek will make, commenting "we don't have any problem going to the disciplinary court. He will continue playing with a kippah. A ruling like this will not hold, we won't compel him to play without his kippah."

Cohen Tzedek spoke out against the ruling as well.

"It saddens me, I thought they were joking with me at the beginning when I heard about the decision," said Cohen Tzedek. "I don't understand what's the difference between me and someone else, for example people with a knitted hat during games abroad."

"I am after all disciplined to the word of G-d, and that's my lifestyle," added the soccer player. "Not to wear the kippah opposes my faith."

Cohen Tzedek further questioned the logic behind the ruling, claiming that his kippah wearing harms "unity."

"It never bothered anyone that I wear a kippah," noted Cohen Tzedek. "I am ready to wear a kippah the color of my hair or clothing. I don't understand why they are preventing a person from doing something he believes in. I plan to continue wearing a kippah and Maccabi Yafo is behind me, I want to do this in the best way."

For their part, the judges attempted to play down the issue.

Yariv Teper, CEO of the Referee's Union, stated "in our view this isn't something person to the player or the religion. It's like if an Arab player were to come with a kafiya. FIFA has also been requested concerning this issue, and we don't want to open the floodgate."

"We know many religious athletes, there are others aside from (Cohen Tzedek) that take off their kippah for a game and put it on afterwards," claimed Teper. "Currently it's the rules of the game and we don't want to open the floodgate on this issue."

"We don't want to hurt anyone, we actually really respect the religion, but that's something that could be problematic," said Teper, concluding "the Jewish religion is not the only one, there are also Muslims, and each religion has its symbols. We keep that off the field."