The wearing of hijab on the world stage has always been a contentious subject. For the past 20 years, there was a ban on the wearing of hijab on the pitch. In 2007, a referee barred an 11-year-old Canadian girl from wearing her hijab to play in a derby. FIFA stepped in and banned the wearing of the Islamic identity scarf in its officiated games.
FIFA stated that wearing the hijab posed health and safety concerns, over fears a player risked being choked while playing football. In the years that ensued, there have been several efforts to right FIFA’s ban on the wearing of hijab.
It was therefore considered historic when Nouhaila Benzina became the first footballer to wear a hijab at the Women’s World Cup on Sunday. The 25-year-old Moroccan defender has not commented on the issue, but, she has made several posts flaunting her hijab.
At the opening of the game, the captain of the Moroccan team, Ghizlane Chebbak, indicated that they were not only in the tournament to compete but wanted to make a cultural statement. Benzina’s action during Morocco’s historic win over South Korea in Australia on Sunday has revealed the objective of the Islamic nation to put its culture on the world map.
Why this is significant is that, 10 years ago, a Moroccan player attempting to wear the headscarf during the World Cup will be disallowed. She will be given the option to choose between wearing the hijab or playing the games. Benzina’s act has opened the floodgates for the Muslim community to express their belief freely without prohibition on the world stage. The act has gained wild commendations from the Muslim community and is seen as an inspiration to many young girls who wish to express their identity without fear or intimidation, according to Daily Mail.
Benzina plays for the Association’s Sports of Forces Armed Royal in Morocco where there are no restrictions to wearing the hijab. Players are freely given the option to associate with the choice of wearing the hijab or not on the pitch.