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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 April, 2004, 10:23 GMT 11:23 UK
Headscarf row stops soccer match
A women's football match has been called off in Australia after a player was told she could not take part unless she removed her Islamic headscarf.

Afifa Saad is in her fourth season playing with South Melbourne Women's Soccer Club, where she always plays in a white headscarf and long trousers.

But Sunday's game against Keilor Park was the first time a referee had asked her to remove her headscarf.

When she refused, both her team mates and the opposition supported her.

"She was crying when it happened. Her team mates rallied around her, which was great to see," South Melbourne coach Alex Alexopoulos told local media.

After consulting with the Victorian Soccer Federation, the referee eventually cleared Ms Saad to play, but the game had to be postponed because of the delay.

Victorian Equal Opportunity Commission chief executive Diane Sisely said Ms Saad may have grounds to lodge a complaint of religious discrimination against the referee.

"I would ask the umpires to explain how wearing a hijab [headscarf] affects a woman's ability to play soccer," she said.

But Victorian Soccer Federation officials said there was no suggestion the referee had discriminated against the player - although they agreed she deserved an apology.

Afifa Saad is now said to be looking forward to playing Port Melbourne on Sunday.


SEE ALSO:
German state backs headscarf ban
01 Apr 04  |  Europe
Headscarves in the headlines
10 Feb 04  |  Europe
French cabinet backs scarf ban
28 Jan 04  |  Europe


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