Monday, September 05, 2005

Power-Tripping Referees (Or, Soccer Doesn't Have a Dress Code)

You can certainly file this one under Stupid Referee Decisions:

Parents and coaches of a Calgary junior soccer team are angry after a Sikh player was barred from a game for insisting on wearing his religious headscarf.

Northwest United was competing in a tournament in Langley when a referee told 17-year-old Gurindar Durah could not wear his patka, a scarf young, religiously observant Sikhs are required to wear.

Durah swore at the referee and was ejected from the game. Then his team decided to walk off in protest.

"Our tournament is done," Northwest United coach Mario Moretti said. "It was done the second he (the referee) said that. This is a decision our players made, not me.

"I supported my players. They all supported Gurindar, which was a no-brainer for us."

A tournament organizer said the teen was kicked out for swearing and the decision on appropriate clothing was up to the referee.

Okay, there may be a case for ejecting a player for dissing the ref. Thing is, the ref gave sufficient provocation to warrant getting called an a-hole. But since when to referres become the fashion police?

"I am told by the referees here that this is a FIFA rule," said Michael Smith, referring to soccer's international governing body.

"They had a meeting here during the week and the there's no jewellery and no clothing outside of what is necessary for the game of soccer is allowed."

But Moretti said he discovered the federation has no such rule.

For everyone's information, the FIFA rules can be found here. The appropriate section seems to be under Players' Equipment. While there is a mention about prohibiting T-shirts that carry advertising, there is definitely nothing concerning religious clothing. What happened was either the officials were running a bluff, or they tried to extend the rulebook to cover more than what was appropriate.

It's not difficult, really. If the headscarf is tied correctly it shouldn't fall off during the normal rough-and-tumble of play and should be allowed. It's not a safety issue because soccer players don't normally wear helmets anyway. (Nothing worth protecting up there, you see; they are soccer players after all.)

Soccer is an international game, and internationalism implies a high degree of tolerance. Someone should get those officials a new rulebook.