South Melbourne soccer player Afifa Saad, who was forced to remove her headwear during a match. Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones
WOMEN soccer players who wear headscarves can now compete internationally, after a five-year ban was overturned by FIFA's rule-making body in Switzerland.
The International Football Association Board has voted unanimously to accept the headscarf worn by Muslim women, effectively overturning its 2007 ban of the headscarf for safety reasons.
''Safety and medical issues have been removed for the use of the headscarf and it is approved that players can have the headscarf,'' said Jerome Valcke, FIFA's secretary general.
The design, colour and material that will be permitted will be finalised at a board meeting in Glasgow in October.
The decision should allow footballers to wear headscarves as temporary equipment from yesterday onwards, until an official design was ratified, said Mark Jensen, a spokesman for Football Federation Australia.
The decision is good news for Muslim female players around the world.
The Football Federation of Australia did not ban the headscarf, but under the 2007 FIFA ruling soccer players who wore one could not represent Australia at the Olympics or the World Cup. Sports such as rugby and taekwondo allow the headscarf to be worn in international competitions.
Moya Dodd, vice-president of the Asian Football Confederation and former soccer player for the Australian women's team, the Matildas, said: ''It's just a matter of time before there is a hijab-wearing Matilda.'' Ms Dodd was part of a year-long campaign to overturn the ban that was spearheaded by FIFA's vice-president and executive committee member, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan.
Ms Dodd believes the ruling is a turning point for ''the beautiful game'' as more Muslim women are playing soccer and reaching its elite ranks.
A headscarf design that includes a quick-release Velcro strap has been developed to overcome safety concerns.
The headscarf ban has affected at least two teams' Olympic qualification bids.
Jordan's goalkeeper was barred from entering the pitch for her team's first attempt at Olympic qualification last year, while Iran's entire team forfeited a qualification match when the players did not remove their headscarves.