Quebec Soccer Federation Suspended By Canadian Soccer Association Over Turban Ban

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QUEBEC TURBAN BAN SOCCER
Aneel Samra, 18, plays with a soccer ball in his backyard, Wednesday, June 5, 2013 in Montreal.Samra has not been able to play organized soccer since last year due to his religious headgear. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz) | CP

MONTREAL - The Canadian Soccer Association has red carded a provincial association over its refusal to let turban-wearing children play, announcing the Quebec organization will be suspended until the ban is overturned.

The national organization took a more aggressive stance Monday in the ongoing controversy surrounding the Quebec Soccer Federation's decision to restrict turban-wearing Sikhs from the pitch, saying its earlier efforts had failed to resolve the matter.

"The Quebec Soccer Federation's inaction has forced us to take measures in order to ensure soccer remains accessible to the largest number of Canadians," it said in a statement Monday night.

The national organization said last week it expected the Quebec association to reverse the ban, which has drawn international news coverage and condemnation from several federal politicians.

The extent of the impact of the suspension on Quebec players is not yet clear. However, according to Canadian Soccer News, the impact could be felt in a variety of ways unless the situation is resolved soon.

Its website said it could result in Quebec all-star teams being banned from play outside the province, and even the cancellation of games within Quebec that involve a nationally certified referee.

"Unfortunately, that means soccer players are being punished for something that the Quebec Soccer Federation should have corrected right away," said Dr. Sanjeet Singh Saluja, a physician and former coach who publicly denounced the ban as having no medical justification.

"I'm sad to see it happen and I'm sad to see that it went this far but unfortunately the Quebec Soccer Federation, they chose not to follow the rules."

The Quebec federation couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

It has said it is concerned about safety and points out that the rules of the world governing body, FIFA, don't specifically allow turbans.

Critics of the Quebec decision point out that FIFA's rules don't explicitly ban turbans, either.

Some of those who opposed the ban said they welcomed the national body's tough-love approach.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney tweeted his approval: "Good to see CDN Soccer Association take action against the Quebec Soccer Federation over its ridiculous turban ban."

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau echoed the sentiment, tweeting that "Barring kids from playing soccer because they wear a turban is wrong. The CSA is right to suspend the #QSF."

The CSA reports directly to the FIFA world body and is responsible for granting or revoking the membership of provincial federations.

The World Sikh Organization of Canada has expressed its sadness over the decision to suspend the Quebec Soccer Federation, and has again urged the QSF to immediately lift its turban ban.

“Whereas Sikh children were initially the victims of the QSF’s decision to uphold the ban on the turban, it is now doubly unfortunate that so many other soccer players in Quebec will also have to suffer the consequences," said WSO President Prem Singh Vinning in a statement issued late Monday.

Vinning said the entire episode has been completely unnecessary and senseless, and the QSF should lift the turban ban for the sake of all soccer players in Quebec.

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