Sikhi or Soccer?


[Note] There has been an update to this post, please see below.

Earlier this month the ruling body for international soccer, FIFA, banned the Iranian women’s team from playing because of their uniforms.  The stated reason for the disqualification is that the women’s uniforms, which include a track suit and a head scarf, violated the FIFA dress code.  The rules for the 2012 Olympics, according to FIFA, state that,

“[p]layers and officials shall not display political, religious, commercial or personal messages or slogans in any language or form on their playing or team kits.”

Covering the full body is required of women in Iran and when these players were faced with a decision between their faith or football, they chose their faith.  Previously, we’ve blogged about the slippery slope of religious symbols, particularly in places like France.  Several blogs and opinion pieces have noted that “it seems unlikely that FIFA’s decision is truly independent of any kind of paternalistic or anti-Islamic sentiment, like the anti-head scarf fervor and bigotry going on in France.”

saturday_images_image_11_623183038.jpgDo Sikhs need to be worried about such policies?  Would we need to choose between Sikhi or Soccer?  While it seems like this may not be of immediate concern to the Sikh community (because really do YOU know any Sikh football soccer players?!) – it is of concern to us because often times turbans come under similar scrutiny.  We have amazing athletes, such as Fauja Singh, who are integrally involved in sports in places like England (there are even Facebook pages dedicated to “Fauja Singh for London 2012 Olympic Torchbearer”).  Imagine if this sentiment continues to grow across Europe, as it seems like it is, what will that mean for Fauja Singh and other athletes who wear turbans?  So, readers, I’m curious – do we need to worry about this issue?

UPDATE: According to a recent article, Sikhs are impacted by these policies,

Muslims are not the only minorities being affected by the rules of professional sporting bodies, such as FIFA, and those enforcing them. Another player, this time a young Sikh, 14-year-old Sagerpreet Singh, was also prevented from playing because he wears a turban, which the Quebec Soccer Federation argues gives him an “unfair competitive advantage on headers”. Given that turbans do not cover the forehead (the part used for “heading” a ball) it is not clear how this could give an edge to a player.

If you’d like to sign a petition which urges FIFA to reconsider and reevaluate its stance on the dress code restrictions it has placed so that all women can play, you can do so here.

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33 Responses to “Sikhi or Soccer?”

  1. There are actually plenty of turbanned Sikhs who play sports, but the reason there aren't any in any of the professional leagues is because of the rules in place, such as this daft one banning the hijab. And it is an uphill battle to fight it. In Canada, a 14 year old Sikh boy was not allowed to play some minor league game in his patka because it apparently gave him "an unfair competitive advantage on headers." More recently, the same thing occurred with a 17 year old.

    An equally idiotic rule covers beards in boxing. One of the reasons they give is that the hair could go into another boxer's eyes, damaging the cornea. Here is an interesting video covering the beard ban in England and its implications on Muslim boxers. Interesting, no turbanned Sikhs were included.

    The same Canada where a 14 and 17 year old were not allowed to play soccer because of their patkas, reversed the decision on beards in boxing. Pardeep Singh Nagara was not allowed to box unless he shaved his beard (turban apparently was fine though. I guess there are no headers involved). By the time the court let him box, he was too old. Hopefully, there will be a turbanned Sikh boxer to take the mantle soon.

    In the U.S. Military, beards were okie dokie until about the 1980s. And one of the reasons they're banned: the gas masks won't properly seal to your face.

    A great post and one that is very relevant to Sikhs.

  2. Forgot the link. Also note that this is for amature boxers. The professional boxing association has had this rule for aeons. It is a very duplicitous way of making sure a certain look is established in the sport while still being able to claim it has nothing to do with religion:

  3. Blighty Singh says:

    What the hell is this thing called 'soccer' ? The whole world , no matter what language they speak, call it by it's English name of 'football'. Just because one country on earth (and Canada by default) calls it 'soccer'…it doesn't make the game 'soccer '. The next time some of us British Sikhs want to submit an article or two about Basketball or Ice Hockey……should we take a leaf out of your book and refer to it by a strange name such as 'badibididongbong' ?….or' 'makubadabuda' ?
    Never mind the Iranians….the real strange people are the north Americans. They speak English but when it comes to football they suddenly pretend to be German speakers who don't understand English. I'm talking about the table game that the world calls 'table football'. When the English took football to Germany the Germans incorporated the English name and called it a Germanic 'fusball'. Now, in bars across north America, the locals pretend they are German and have never heard of the English word 'foot'….and call it 'fusball'.
    Look… is not about life and death. It is far more important than that. As far as I'm concerned no Sikh, nor anyone else, in Canada or America should be allowed to play football as long as they call it by a silly name ; Soca….Sarkar…or whatever.

  4. kantay says:

    the ironic thing here is, you have one country that requires all the women to wear a certain style of dress including having specialized police to make sure this happens. And that is not what we're being asked to consider the as a problem. What is going on??

  5. Yessir says:

    FYI, people have already chosen Soccer over Sikhi. Case in point: No wearing of Kirpans. Instead they opt to wear the 'chotee kirpan' in their hair. So in affect, they have sold out their religion. Nobody kicks up a fuss though because it suits our needs. Instead we seem to reserve our fervor for when we are required to remove Kirpans upon entering Parliamentary buildings.

  6. Jimmy says:

    NPR did a story on the FIFA rules regarding Iranian player and mentioned that previously the team and FIFA had worked together and found a uniform that would meet both of their needs. The team decided to change their uniform after reaching agreement FIFA to what is currently being banned.

  7. Blighty Singh says:

    The only real issue this article raises is why, when a man (Fauja Singh) comes from the east London territory of either West Ham United Football Club or Leyton Orient Football Club, is he pictured wearing a Birmingham based Aston Villa Football Club shirt ? The answer to that lies in historic tribal loyalties and racism. Both of which explain why the different Sikh areas of the UK have different loyalties to different clubs even though they are only a couple of miles apart. (There are 16 professional football clubs in the city of London alone and each one of them is larger and has a bigger weekly attendance than any MLS club) .These are issues, of course, that people that don't even know the name of the game cannot possibly appreciate.
    What they should note, however, is that the 6 most seen Sikhs on earth…..the 6 most recognised Sikhs in the world…..the only 6 Sikhs that much of earth has ever seen and ever will see….are the 6 dastar wearing sikhs that have season ticket seats directly behind the coach of Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson. They are the ones that are seen by the kids in darkest Congo…..the fisherman in Borneo…..and the farmer in Patagonia week after week. None of this explains though, or justifies, why Fauja Singh would want to hold an Aston Villa scarf aloft.

  8. Blighty Singh says:

    Never mind speaking to Manmohan Singh… can have a bath with him and even sleep with him but it still won't camouflage your north American ignorance about the world. You have no idea of how those 6 bhatra sikhs that sit behind the Manchester United coach are seen every other saturday by the entire globe. For most of the earth the only Sikhs they have ever seen in their life and the only sikhs they will ever see. You have no idea how only a grand total of 3 countries on earth even broadcast basketball, american football and ice hockey. You have no idea of the significance of east London based Fauja Singh (in the photograph) wearing a Birmingham team's shirt rather than his local east London shirt of West Ham because you have no idea of the sectarianism of football……and how certain clubs represent certain political viewpoints. So….I humbly request you stop embarrassing yourself by showing the world that you think Manmohan Singh appears on TV screens across the globe more than the biggest football club on earth. The fact that you think that is not your fault……ignorance of the world is a price you have to pay for being an American. But the fact that you're prepared to display your ignorance to the world is entirely your fault.
    one final note ; my initial question still stands : If this discussion was about basketball would you north americans take the views of us English sikhs seriously if we didn't even know the name of the game and referred to it as 'badubabidonga' ? If not….why are you expecting the rest of earth to take this article and subsequent posts seriously )remember; you are the only country on earth that calls football 'soccer')

  9. Blighty Singh says:

    'soccer', my friend was the word used by the upper class toffs in the private schools. The same people that refer to sandwiches as 'sarnies' and rugby as 'ruggers'. Their way of talking never has and never will catch on with the common man. If you want to talk like an18th century toff why don't you also grit your teeth, stiff and upper lip and wear a bowler hat too ?
    And ….going back to the issue of the ignorance of the world that Americans have…what exactly is this thing you call "British Law" ? How can there possibly be such a thing called 'British' Law ? American Law, as you know, is based on English Common Law……as is Canadian Law, Indian Law etc. However, the other major country that makes up this thing called 'Britain' ; Scotland……has a totally different system of law. Scotland, going back to its old alliance with France, has always had a more European Civil Law system of law. So…..given the fact that English Law is virtually the same as Canadian, Indian and American Law but totally different to Scottish Law…..please explain what was going through your mind when you invented a 'British' law .

  10. I'm not sure I agree with your claim, but am definitely not about to get into a debate about law. So, we'll just say you win. And if the term "soccer" is really that important, we'll call it football. Teek hai? Now what are your thoughts about FIFA and their "dress code" =)

  11. Blighty Singh says:

    Well Navdeep, now that you call it football I will answer. And…yes….football really is that important. As I mentioned in my first post, it's not about life and death…….It is far more important than that. And… the main religion of this country where more people go to watch a match on Sunday morning than go to church. As for the Fifa dress code………….I really couldn't care less. Girls don't play football here. It's a mans game. So….anything fifa does that stops a girl playing is ok with me.

  12. Blighty Singh says:

    Well I'll leave you with another fun fact Navdeep…….biscuits are of course biscuits in the English language (see the Italian biscotti for how and why this is the case). In 17th century New Amsterdam…..which the English subsequently bought and renamed New York, the local Americans heard the Dutch speakers refer to these things called 'cookes' in the Dutch language. Unfortunately…..although some might say unsurprisingly….the Americans wern't quite clever enough to understand that when the Dutch were referring to cookies they were in fact referring to cake…….for cookie is the Dutch word for cake. So please….by all means enjoy your cake while the rest of the world enjoys a biscotti.

  13. Blighty Singh says:

    I thought this thread was finished with a couple of days ago ? Why have you come back for more ? Anyway, are you talking about football ? If you are then try spotting key words I used such as 'season ticket holders for the seats directly behind the coach'. Then think to yourself why "friends" of the coach would be sitting in the stands rather than in one of the VIP boxes. Then think to yourself how a season ticket holder for a seat at Manchester United would magicaly find that he also holds some sort of magical season ticket seat for the…er…exact same seat number at a totally different stadium for a match against Barcelona. Then think to yourself what possible reason there could be for a cockney to be fond of a Manchester club (I personally hope they all die….of Aids).
    Then think to yourself why you've gone off on one about 'England' to a person that was talking about the 'whole world'.
    By taking your frustration out on me you're not going to be able to change the way that the entire world sees you Americans as ignorant of worldly affairs. And if the fact that I keep showing your worldly ignorance upsets you so much perhaps you ought to tell your American friend here to stop setting you up for ridicule each time by making ignorant comments such as not knowing the difference between England and Britain………and attempting to score points over the English word 'biscuit' without realising that the world already laughs at Americans for being too stupid to even realise that they mistakingly took a foreign language word for 'cake' to symbolise biscuits. I suggest, you stop embarrassing yourself further here….each time setting yourself for a fall…..and concentrate on sorting your country's terrible problems. You really wanna know what the world thinks of when they think of America ? You really wanna know what our schools and colleges tell us about America ? In the history of the entire world…there has never ever been a country that has imprisoned so many of its people. 5% of the world but 25% of the earths imprisoned population. More 17 year old black men in prison than in school or college. Land of the free ? You, my friend, have absolutely no idea about how the world sees you. But…..ignorance is bliss. In ignorance, you take a beating and yet keep coming back to me asking for more. I'm growing bored of you Pennsylvania, but if its more you want than more I shall give; that ignorant comment you made above about a 'silly English game and name of netball'. The game 'netball', my friend, is not an English game. It is an American one. It was invented (and named) in 1891 at the exact same time and place as basketball was invented. At the school in Massachusetts where basketball was invented….the female sports teachers wanted a similar game for their girl students to play. Thus the female teachers changed the rules slightly and changed the name to netball.
    A few minutes ago, Pennsylvania, when you were writing your message above, you were laughing at the English for having and naming a game called 'netball'. Tell me, are you now laughing at yourself ? You should be.

    btw…pennsylvania…re; my grammar here. I write each time while working. I write phatta phatt bish bosh bish send. Warts and all. Spelling mistakes and grammar mistakes galore. This ain't a place to write a thesis fella.

    My last say on this thread….so to help you out a wee bit Penn, re; the 'imaginary non-existent' sikh guys the world doesn't see every week :

  14. Blighty Singh says:

    Pennsylvania, simmer down now fella. You keep coming back for more no matter how many times I make you look foolish. You seem to enjoy it. Wouldn't want to disappoint you so ……….lets examine that comment you've just made about the 'silly English game with a silly name given to it by the English ; netball' . Umm, Pennsylvania, you make it too easy for me. Netball is not an English game and not a game named by the English. It is an American one. It was invented and named at the exact same time and place in Massachusetts where basketball was invented in 1891. At the school / college where Mr Naismith invented basketball for the boy students the female teachers wanted a game for their female students to play. So….they altered a the rules a wee bit and called it by a new silly name and thus netball was born and given to the world.
    p.s . A little tip for you : If you wanna get under the skin of an English Sikh you're better off not going down that insulting England route. The English Sikhs spit on, burn and urinate on the national flag of their country. Nationalism and patriotism is not the done thing in Europe. Means nothing to us.
    pps. Those "imaginary non-existent Sikhs at Manchester United that nobody on earth ever sees' . They definately do not exist. They most certainly are not ever seen. They have not made an advert with Norwegian legend Ole Gunner Skolskar and Manchester United have most certainly not made them the poster boys for their TV channel campaign…..probably because they don't exist. Apparently.

  15. Blighty Singh says:

    You can a tell alot about the sadness of a man in the way that he treats writing a message on a blog as if he writing a university thesis. I write here while at work……phatta phat…bish bosh bish…. send. warts an' all. Spelling and grammar mistakes galore. Little did I know that I would run into a joker here who's life and confidence is so lacking that he thinks his writing on a blog is gonna be marked by his English teacher.
    I say "most seen' Sikhs in the world…….and you've gone off on a rant about 'famous'. Only you can explain why. I've put it down to poor reading skills but even then it is quite strange. I mean 'seen' starts with an 's' and 'famous' starts with an 'f', and the two words have very little else in common. I can only conclude that, as demonstrated by your last two posts, you've built yourself into such a mad angry frenzy that you temporarily lost the ability to think straight.
    Seriously now fella, see that 'check spelling' icon just above the 'post a new comment' box ? Well the day I my life becomes so devoid of purpose that I need to press that in order to impress the likes of you…….the day I need to make sure my t's are crossed and my i's are dotted….is the day that I will get paid for writing here. I am absolutely proud of the way I read a message here and within 30 seconds write my reply and press 'submit'. Its called brain power. No 'wikipedia' for me, me ol' cock sparra, But….seing as you're a fan….why don't you look up the name and nationality of that female teacher from that insititute in Massachusetts….the one who brought the game and its name to England.
    And ….er….a little pointer in reading and understanding the English language : When someone tells you how you failed dismally in getting under their skin that probably means you didn't get under their skin. I mean how does saying negative things about England get under the skin of an Englishman that burns the English flag….wants his head of state publicly executed…..supports enemies in war against his country…and wants and appreciates devolvement of power to Brussels ?
    You amuse me Pennsylvania….in much the same way that cute little children amuse me. But even cute little children become annoying some time, so with that in mind……how long you gonna keep bugging me here fella ?

  16. Pennsylvania says:

    The posts will keep coming as long as the sun keeps rising? Too dramatic? Also I just asked my mom to start calling me “fella” and I hope you return the favor by having your mom call you “dude.”

    That being said, I am sure the L.H. community is quite annoyed by the direction this commentary has taken and for that I truly apologize. The thing is, I just graduated and with medical school applications being my only commitment, I have a lot of free time on my hand. Such is also the case for our friend Blighty, who is making efficient use of his work period.

    On to the next one – Sir blighty:

    We can all agree you weren’t an A-level topper while in school, and for that, I will cut you slack for your horrid writing style. Somebody has to be a bottom feeder in our society, and thank you for taking such a needed role. Is it wrong for me to extrapolate your writing technique to your lifestyle? Probably. But it’s a blog, and I like my chances on such a speculation.

    Now lets settle this frisky little debate right now: my boy Manmohan Singh is by far the most recognized/famous/seen/witnessed/google-imaged/3D movie’d Sikh in both hemispheres. Hands down. Like jeopardy wouldn’t even consider such a question on their show, as it would cause all three contestants to instantly press the “i know the answer” button, which would result in an absolute log jam, and essentially fry the entire set. This would be horrible for the show – can you imagine it just going down while recording in front of a LIVE audience?! So you see, it’s not a question of who is SEEN more, because Manmohan is the start and end to that question. Sure, will that answer change in the future? Absolutely.

    Oh and I am glad you brought the netball debate back into question, because I was worried people were going to think that an American actually invented such a silly sport! See, when you went to the Wiki-page for netball, I know you certainly saw the following:

    “Naismith’s new game spread quickly across the United States and variations of the rules soon emerged. Senda Berenson, the director of Physical Education at Smith College in Massachusetts, developed modified rules for women in 1892 that would eventually give rise to women’s basketball.”

    Now I know basketball and netball are quite similar in the way they end, but one starts with an “n” whereas the other starts with a “b”! Naive mistake – I don’t fault you.

    And then I know you took the time to read the paragraph that immediately followed, which stated:

    “Martina Bergman-Österberg introduced one version of basketball in 1893 to her female students at the Physical Training College in Hampstead, London.[14] The rules of the game were modified at the college over several years: the game moved outdoors and was played on grass; the baskets were replaced by rings that had nets; and in 1897 and 1899, rules from women’s basketball in the United States were incorporated.[13][15] Madame Österberg’s new sport acquired the name “net ball”‘

    My dude, I hope you enjoyed the reading and to all the L.H. readers who are following along, you are now all well versed in the history of netball!

  17. Blighty Singh says:

    Ah ah !!! so thats what all this is about. You were just aching to tell the world that you've graduated and will soon be going to medical school. You know it would've been a lot quicker and easier if you just took out a full page advert in the newspaper…or indeed, started a brand new thread entitled "Sikhs in Medical Schools ; They're really really brilliant aren't they"
    No but seriously Pennsylvania lets end this sillyness now. You're a Sikh…..I'm a Sikh…..You're a little younger than me. You've studied hard and will hopefully gain a place in medical college. That, makes me quite proud of you. Well done. I genuinely wish you well.
    As a good human being though, I do worry, that once you become a doctor or surgeon, you won't mistakenly amputate a hand when you should be cutting off a foot…….and you won't remove a long shaped lung when you should be operating on a sphere shaped brain.
    Re; the game you americans call 'football' : You don't play it with your 'foot'… play it with your 'hand'. A 'ball' by its very definition is a spherical object…..i.e a 'round' object…shaped like the globe. Not…shaped like a stretched melon
    I suggest you get used to knowing your 'foots' from your 'hands'….and your lungs from your brains right now… practising calling that American game by a more apt name ;' Hand Melon' .

  18. Pennsylvania says:

    1.) Blighty, I actually thank you for your kind words and encouragement. That's what I'll take out of all this bickering.
    2.) This debate is actually dead and I'd prefer not poking a dead fish.

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