Imagine being a 5 year old. Now, imagine that you are a 5 year old who loves soccer. You live for soccer. You eat, breath, drink, everything and anything that has to do with soccer. Before going to bed you can hear the roars of 100,000 fans cheering you on at the World Cup because you just scored the winning goal in the last 4 seconds of the game. You wake up early every morning to watch your favorite team fly across the field and play this glorious game that you adore. You spend hours practicing the curve in your kick as your mom hangs up the laundry and tells you to think of something other than that ridiculous sport.
Now imagine, that despite loving the game more than any other soul in the entire world, being perfectly healthy, meeting all the physical and mental requirements you're not allowed to play a single competitive match. Why?
Because you tie a turban on your head.
Seems ridiculous, right? Not to the Quebec Soccer Federation.
Last week, the Quebec Soccer Federation imposed a ban on all children who wear turbans from playing soccer in their local leagues. The justification for the ban? A safety issue.
Despite the blatant stench of xenophobia and racism of the entire situation, the federation continues to stand by the ban.
"They can play in their backyard. But not with official referees, not in the official rules of soccer,” said Brigette Frot, director-general of the provincial group. They have no choice."
No, Mrs. Frot. They do have a choice. A choice that you’ve taken away from them. What baffles me is not the fact that the ban actually exists, but Frot and the federation is trying to justify it by saying it’s a safety issue.
According to records from the Montreal Children's Hospital, 10,000 injuries have occurred due to youth soccer injuries in the last decade. None of which have been caused by turbans.
To say a turban causes injuries in soccer is like saying the sticker on a football helmet causes injuries in football. It’s absolutely absurd.
To me, this is an issue of a government attempting to standardize and discriminate against a select few group of people who do not fit their perception of what “an athlete” should look like.
I was lucky enough to grow up in a country where my appearance and personal religious choices never played a role in which sports I was allowed to participate in. The beauty of athletics is that regardless of where you’re from, what you look like, or what you believe in, you can play.
When a group of school children score a goal between two trash cans on a makeshift soccer field, they cheer. And when a professional soccer team scores a goal at the World Cup, they also cheer.
The difference between those two cheers? None. The joy and exhilaration created by athletic achievement is universal in nature. A goal in Quebec is no different from a goal on a field right here in Turlock.
That’s the beauty of sports. It’s based on performance, not perception.
As an enthusiast of sports and as someone who has worn a turban all their life, I urge the federation to remove this ridiculous ban and allow every child, turbaned or not turbaned, to be able to play the sport they love.
Because you see, this ban doesn’t just stop that 5 year old from playing soccer, it stops that 5 year old from dreaming.