Finnish Football Association offers free sports headscarves to promote diversity | Football News
The headscarf distribution initiative aims to allow more people from ethnic minority backgrounds to play football.
The Finnish Football Association has begun to provide free “sports headscarves” to any player who wants to wear a headscarf. This move aims to attract more types of players to participate in the sport.
So far, the FA has distributed “dozens” of headscarves, which are made of technical, stretchy fabrics, Heidi Pilaja, head of women’s and women’s football development, told AFP.
“In Finland, it is really difficult for girls with immigrant backgrounds to join football clubs,” Pihlaja said.
“So we want to launch this initiative and welcome everyone, regardless of your religious beliefs, and whether you want to wear a scarf or not.”
13-year-old Nasro Bahnaan Hulbade told AFP during a training session at her club VJS in Vantaa: “It doesn’t swing like usual, and you don’t need to tuck it into a shirt.” In the Finnish capital Helsinki.
“It’s easier to run inside,” said her teammate Kamila Nuh.
The girls have been playing for one and two years respectively, but said they were “very happy and grateful” to learn about the free headscarf from their parents.
Pihlaja says cultural issues and costs—not the turban itself—are often the main barriers for girls and women in immigrant communities to participate in the sport.
But she said that providing a headscarf is “symbolic” in making the sport more accessible.
Although the response was mainly “very positive”, the plan was also criticized by “some people say it devalues ??women or brings religion into the game.”
A 2018 comparison by the Pew Research Center found that Finland has the strongest anti-Muslim attitude among 15 countries, and the far-right Finnish Party is expected to make record gains in the country’s local elections later this month.
“We support the right of every woman to choose whether to use a scarf,” Pihlaja said in response to criticism.
“Where they want to use it, we want to show that they are popular and that the turban is not an obstacle.”
According to official statistics, although the FA’s statement triggered a series of negative comments on social media, in this country with a population of 5.5 million, one of the most racially single countries in Europe, the hijab project has not become a major topic.
Finland’s widespread anti-immigration sentiment is currently not so obvious in the football field, where the men’s national team composed of many ethnic minority players has gained near-universal support.
This month, Finland will make its debut in the European Championship, and the country’s women’s team will enter the 2021 European Cup for the first time.
As another measure to promote equality, the Finnish Football Association removed the word “female” from the name of its top women’s athletic league in 2019 and renamed it the “National League”.
It also announced equal pay and bonuses for male and female players in the national team.
Kamila Nuh wore her VJS jersey, the same color as her beloved Liverpool jersey. She said she “loves” football and “I don’t plan to stop anytime soon.”
She admitted that Finland still does not have so many female players, “but I want to be one of them.”