FIFA’s intervention into the Québec Soccer Federation turban debate on June 13th was a welcome reprieve, allowing Québec Sikhs to return from their backyard exile and back to the soccer pitch. I had cynically expected FIFA to do nothing and see the matter resolved until it went to the courts, whether through the parties aggrieved the QSF or the Canadian Soccer Association. Thankfully, that did not happen.
It was striking how favourable FIFA’s release was to the QSF; they could have hardly had a more favourable release if they wrote themselves.
The one issue FIFA’s release did not address was the QSF’s concerns about the safety of turbans on the soccer pitch. Of course, this turgid kerfuffle was never about safety in the first place. The QSF failed to present any evidence corroborating their safety concerns. Furthermore, the Québec Soccer Federation hasn’t exactly been quick to act when other safety concerns are raised, even in the case when there has been a death.
What is in FIFA’s release is as interesting as what is missing. Notice that the release makes no reference to the Canadian Soccer Association’s directive in March extending the approval of the wearing of headscarves to the wearing of turbans. Rather than explicitly (and retroactively) affirming the CSA’s decision, FIFA’s release reads like a new, development only reached after the QSF acted out.
That is why the ruling is great for the QSF. Not only did they manage to perform an end-run around the Canadian Soccer Association and get away with it, the end-run and the turban ban can be justified because they caused change. With the QSF reinstated in what appears to be a return to the status quo ante. I believe we will see the QSF emboldened by the outcome and their insubordination.
When he wrote about the turban ban, Duane Rollins pointed out that the ban in the realm of soccer was as much about a reaction to recent CSA reform as anything else. FIFA’s intervention makes the CSA look weak.
This probably will not be the last time the Québec Soccer Federation tries to assert itself in an attempt at independence and given that they faced few consequences (other than outrage outside of Québec), I do not see them being reluctant to do so in the future. I hope that the next time they do so their actions won’t be seeded with bigotry.
 – Rycroft, Ben. “Updated: CSA letter confirms FIFA approval of turbans.” It’s Called Football, June 13, 2013. Accessed June 17, 2013. http://www.canadiansoccernews.com/content.php?4649-CSA-letter-confirms-FIFA-approval-of-turbans.
 – Patriquin, Martin. “The FQS and safety: a prelude to the turban wars.” Maclean’s, June 12, 2013. Accessed June 17, 2013. http://www2.macleans.ca/2013/06/12/the-fsq-and-safety-a-prelude-to-the-turban-wars/.
 – BC Soccer. “BC Soccer wishes to clarify the following on the matter of the wearing of turbans” BCSoccer.net, June 4, 2013. Accessed June 17, 2013. http://www.bcsoccer.net/news/post/bc-soccer-wishes-to-clarify-the-following-on-the-matter-of-the-wearing-of-turbans.
 – Canadian Soccer News. “QSF Lifts turban ban, CSA lifts suspension.” Canadian Soccer News, June 15, 2013. Accessed June 17, 2013. http://www.canadiansoccernews.com/content.php?4655-QSF-lifts-turban-ban&s=a9567ee8d9a4840b813c704c9a8dcde1.
 – Rollins, Duane. “Rollins: Quebec Soccer Federation’s turban ban a last gasp power grab in CSA reform battle.” Counter Attack, June 12, 2013. Accessed June 17, 2013. http://blogs.thescore.com/counterattack/2013/06/12/rollins-quebec-soccer-federations-turban-ban-a-last-gasp-power-grab-in-csa-reform-battle/.