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Quebec soccer maintains turban ban; CSA outlines suspension

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The Canadian Press
6/12/2013 7:44:52 PM
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MONTREAL -- Canada's national soccer association has outlined the consequences of its suspension of Quebec's federation over the controversial turban ban -- and they appear far-reaching.

The Canadian Soccer Association said Wednesday the suspension includes prohibiting Quebec teams from participating in or hosting interprovincial matches and national competitions -- such as all-star games and the Canadian championships.

The national soccer body also said the suspension prevents Quebec clubs from competing in or hosting international matches and forbids them from having national or international referees officiate their games.

Quebec's federation would also be blocked from participating in or benefiting from international soccer clinics, CSA meetings and its disciplinary hearings.

"It is with regret that the Canadian Soccer Association recognizes that the Quebec Soccer Federation suspension will, in the short term, affect a number of players and clubs," the organization said in the release.

"The association remains committed to resolving this issue for the long-term growth and development of the sport of soccer in Canada."

One Ottawa reporter tweeted that his son's soccer team has withdrawn from a Montreal tournament this weekend because of the suspension.

The discipline was handed down this week after the Quebec organization showed no sign of reversing its decision to ban Sikh religious headgear on the pitch.

The CSA said the suspension will be lifted once the Quebec federation has confirmed in writing that it has overturned its decision to prevent turbans, patkas and keskis from being worn during organized soccer games.

The CSA statement noted that, according to its bylaws, "discrimination of any kind against country, private person or group of people on account of ethnic origin, gender, language, religion, politics or any other reasons is strictly prohibited and punishable by suspension or expulsion."

Earlier on Wednesday, before the CSA's statement was released, Quebec federation officials said the controversial ban would remain in effect for the time being but that they would do everything possible to re-establish dialogue with the CSA.

The provincial body decided to uphold the ban recently despite a CSA directive in April that called for provincial associations to extend an existing rule that allows Islamic hijabs for girls.

Quebec is the only province that has balked at the directive and says it wants soccer's governing body, the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), to issue a ruling on turbans.

The Quebec federation has said it made its decision with player safety in mind, although it has no evidence that shows turbans pose a risk. As a result, the province's referees began cracking down in the last year on the headgear.

A provincial soccer official said recently that kids who wear the banned clothing can "play in their backyard."

The Sikh community says the ban means 100 to 200 children must either ditch a religious requirement or quit playing organized soccer.

Quebec Premier Pauline Marois said this week that it's unacceptable for the Canadian body to suspend the organization and called the QSF "autonomous," even though the CSA reports directly to FIFA and is responsible for granting or revoking the membership of provincial federations.

The province's sports minister, Marie Malavoy, repeated that line on Wednesday, saying the government supports the provincial federation to do what it thinks is right.

Malavoy said neither the government nor any of its arm's-length bodies were involved in the soccer federation's operations.

The Quebec federation said Wednesday it wouldn't grant any interviews.

"To give every possible opportunity for discussion, we do not wish to comment further on the situation, whether in the media or in public," the statement said.

"We hope for the fastest possible resolution to this impasse."

An official with the Canada Games Council, the rights holder for the Canada Summer Games, said he doesn't believe the suspension will affect this year's competition, which will be held Aug. 2-17 in Sherbrooke, Que.

Patrick Kenny noted that Team Quebec had already registered two soccer teams -- a male and a female team in the U-18 category.

"We've received nothing from Quebec or Canadian Soccer saying that this ban now affects us," Kenny said in an interview after the CSA had released its statement.

"We're definitely moving ahead. We haven't heard from anyone that they're absolutely out."

The Summer Games are supported by both the federal and the Quebec governments

In Ottawa, Bal Gosal, the federal minister of state for sport, said both sides -- the Canadian and the provincial bodies -- are talking to each other.

"I'll let them have that conversation and hopefully, they will you know, let these kids play, he told reporters Wednesday. "I mean that's very important for all kids to play soccer."

Gosal would not comment when asked if he thought that Marois had turned the controversy into a political issue.

He said he remained optimistic the Canadian and provincial soccer bodies would work out a deal.

"They're having a dialogue and I'm pretty up -- you know pretty sure they will come to a consensus," Gosal said.

 

Soccer (Photo: Mark Keppler/Bongarts/Getty Images))

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(Photo: Mark Keppler/Bongarts/Getty Images))
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