Searles, France – Every time Mama goes to a Ducati football game, her stomach hurts.
It happened again on a recent Saturday afternoon in Searles, in the northern part of Paris. His amateur team came to face the local club, and the 23-year-old Muslim midfielder Dixitie feared he would not be allowed to play in the hijab.
This time, the referee let her in. “It worked,” he said at the end of the game, leaning against the fence bordering the field, his smiling face sitting in a scarf under a black knife.
But Diakité just fell from the door.
Over the years, participating players in France’s Soccer Federation races have banned athletes from wearing clear religious symbols, such as hijabs, a rule that strictly observes the organization’s strict secular values. Although the ban is easily implemented at amateur level, it has been hanging around Muslim women’s sports for years, giving up their professional career aspirations and leaving some completely out of the game.
In a more multicultural France, where women’s football is on the rise, the ban has also sparked growing reactions. At the forefront of the battle is Les Hijabis, a group of soccer players wearing young hijabs from different teams who have joined forces to campaign against what they describe as a discriminatory rule that excludes Muslim women from sports. Doing.
Their activity has touched a nerve in France, revived heated debates over the integration of Muslims in a country in which Islam is associated with violence, and highlighted the struggles of French sports authorities as their Field with their growing demand for reconciliation to defend strict secular values.
“What we want is to be accepted as we are, to engage in these great slogans of diversity,” said Fony Devara, president of Les Hijabis, which has 80 members. “Our only desire is to play football.”
The hijab collective was created with the help of researchers and community organizers in 2020 in an attempt to resolve a dispute: Although French law and FIFA, the governing body of the World Soccer, allow sports women to compete in hijab, French football. The federation forbids it, arguing that it will. The ground will break the principle of religious neutrality.
Supporters of the ban say the hijab represents an Islamic fundamentalist approach to the game. But the personal stories of the hijabis members emphasize how soccer equals freedom – and how the ban seems to be a step back.
Ducati began playing soccer at the age of 12, initially hiding it from her parents, who play soccer as a boys’ game. “I want to be a professional soccer player,” he said, calling it a “dream.”
Jean-Claude Njehoya, her current coach, said that “when she was younger, she had a lot of abilities” that could bring her to the highest level. But “since that time” she understands that the hijab ban will affect her, she said, “and he didn’t really put himself forward.”
Diakité said she decided to wear a hijab in 2018 – and give up on her dream. She now plays for the Third Division Club and intends to open a driving school. “No regrets,” he said. “Either I am accepted as I am, or I am not. And that’s it. “
Kardom Dembele, a 19-year-old midfielder who wears a nose ring, also said he had to contend with his mother to allow him to play. She soon joined a sports-intensive program in middle school and participated in the club’s efforts. But it wasn’t until she learned about the ban, four years ago, that she realized she would no longer be allowed to compete.
“I’ve been successful in giving my mom and I’m afraid the federation won’t play me,” said Dumbley. “I said to myself: What a joke!
Other members of the group recalled the episodes when the referee barred them from the field, pushed some, felt humiliated, played football and went to sports where hijabs were allowed or tolerated, such as handball or football.
During the past year, the Les Hijabis have been lobbying to end the ban on the French Football Federation. They sent letters, met with officials and even protested at the federal headquarters – to no avail. The Fed declined to comment for this article.
Contradictoryly, it was the staunch opponents of the Les Hijabis that eventually kept them in the spotlight.
In January, a group of conservative senators tried to include the football federation’s hijab ban in the law, arguing that hijabs threatened to disrupt fundamental Islam in sports clubs. The move reflects a prolonged unrest in France over the Muslim periphery, which regularly triggers controversy. In 2019, a French store plans to sell a hijab designed for racing after a barrage of criticism.
Encouraged by the efforts of senators, Lis launched a fierce lobbying campaign against the Hijabis Amendment. Taking full advantage of their strong presence on social media – the group has nearly 30,000 followers on Instagram – they launched a petition in which more than 70,000 signatures were collected; Collected many sports celebrities for their cause; And organized games before and after the Senate building with professional athletes.
Vikash Thorasso, a former French midfielder who participated in a game, said the ban made him mute. “I don’t understand,” he said. “Muslims are being targeted here.
Stephen Pednoyer, the senator behind the amendment, dismissed the allegation that the purpose of the legislation was exclusively on Muslims, adding that its focus was on clear religious signs. But he acknowledged that the amendment was made through the wearing of a Muslim veil, which he called “a propaganda vehicle” for political Islam and a form of “visual propaganda.” (Piednoir also condemned the display of PSG star Neymar’s Catholic tattoos as “unfortunate” and wondered whether religious sanctions should increase them.)
The amendment was eventually rejected by a majority of the government in Parliament, though not without precedent. Paris police bans protests organized by Les Hijabeuses, and the French sports minister Said The law allows women wearing the hijab to compete with the government Same As opposed to a head scarf.
Hijab warfare may not be as popular in France, where 6 in 10 people support a ban on wearing a hijab, according to a recent survey by polling firm CSA. Marian Le Pen, the very right-wing presidential candidate who will face President Emmanuel Macron in the run-off vote on April 24 – with a shot at the final victory – has said that if elected she would ban Muslim masks in public places.
But, on the football field, everyone seems to agree that the hijab should be allowed.
“Nobody’s mind if they play with it,” said Rana Kanar, 17, a Circelas player who came to see his team face the club at Ducati on a chilly February evening.
Kenner was in the bleachers with about 20 fellow players. All said they saw the ban as a form of discrimination, noting that, at the amateur level, the ban was enforced.
However the referee of the game in Circelas, who had given Ducati the game, appeared to disagree with the ban. “I’m on the other side,” he said, refusing to give his name for fear of retaliation.
Pierre Samsonov, a former deputy head of the Football Federation’s amateur branch, said the problem will inevitably come to the fore again in the coming years, with women’s football development and the hosting of the 2024 Olympics in Paris, in which Muslim elite athletes Will be added to the country.
Samsonov, who initially defended the ban on hijab, said he had softened his stance, acknowledging that the policy could end Muslim players. “The problem is that we are not producing the worst results by deciding to ban the fields instead of deciding to allow them,” he said.
Piednoir, the senator, said the players were exhausting themselves. But he acknowledges that he has never spoken to any hijab players to encourage them, comparing the situation to asking “firefighters” to go “because of the probiotics.”
Dimbley, who manages Hijabis’ social media accounts, said she was often harassed by the violence of the online comments and strong political opposition.
“We will,” he said. “It’s not just for us, it’s also for young girls who will dream of playing for PSG tomorrow, for France.”
Monk James Contribute to reporting.