LONDON: The Football Association (FA) of Finland has pledged to give sports hijabs to every female footballer in the country who wishes to wear one while playing.
Heidi Pihlaja, head of football development at the association, said the initiative is intended to promote more equality in the sport and marks 50 years of organized women’s football in Finland.
The move comes in cooperation with the country’s top female league, the Subway National League, and sportswear giant Nike, which will give its Nike Pro sports hijabs to girls and women who require one as part of their kit.
Jerseys, shorts and socks are often given to players by their clubs, but not hijabs, and this can deter some players from taking part, a Finnish FA statement said.
“We are constantly working to ensure that sports belongs to everyone, regardless of the player’s starting point,” Pihlaja said. “Finland is becoming increasingly diverse, and we want to take better account of different needs when girls become part of the football family. The game is open to everyone.
“We hope that we, in leading by example, encourage other sports and football associations to join us in promoting equality and equity in sports,” she added.
Sara Salmani, one of Finland’s most experienced diversity and inclusion specialists, also said the move was key to combatting discrimination, in particular Islamophobia, and taking a stand on a set of values the Finnish FA wished to promote.
“Over the past month, the use of the hijab and its ban have made headlines around the world, showing that Islamophobia is still prevalent in the world today,” she said. “It is great that Finland is leading the way, showing that diversity belongs not only in sports but also in everyday life.
“The donation of sports hijabs is a testament to the fact that the National League really stands behind its values and continues its active work against racism,” Salmani added.
“We share the same values with the National League, and we could not be prouder of the way they are taking sports toward the future. Sports has the power to make the world a better place, and our vision is to make sports a part of everyday life,” Nike’s David Nordbeck said.