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Last Updated: Saturday, 5 May 2007, 19:11 GMT 20:11 UK
Unholy row at clergy soccer game
A friendship-building football match between Muslim and Christian clergy in Norway was called off after a row over the participation of women players.

Muslim Imams had refused to play against women because it went against their beliefs about close physical contact with the opposite sex.

But when the church decided to drop its women players, the priests' team captain walked out in protest.

The game was meant to be an enjoyable end to a day-long conference in Oslo.

Members of the two faiths had been discussing ways of encouraging greater inter-faith dialogue at the "Shoulder to Shoulder" event.

'Wrong interpretation'

Church of Norway spokesman Olav Fykse Tveit said they had learnt of the imams' objections over the match two days before Saturday's conference.

"But because we thought it would be a nice conclusion of the conference we didn't want to call it off, so we decided to stage an all-men's team game instead," he said.

Both sides have learned to better understand our cultures and we have had an open discussion
Olav Fykse Tveit

The decision outraged the women players in the Christian team, and prompted the captain to resign.

Just hours before the match, the church released a statement saying it had been called off.

"We realise now that it will be wrong to have a priest team without women," the statement said.

"The reactions we have had today shows us that this is being interpreted as a gender-political issue. This is why we cannot go through with the soccer match."

Mr Fykse Tveit said the outcome had not been solely negative.

"Both sides have learned to better understand our cultures and we have had an open discussion."

Country profile: Norway
11 Apr 07 |  Country profiles


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