The family of a 14-year-old girl is demanding an apology from a referee who refused to allow her to play indoor soccer while wearing a religious head scarf. But the head of referee development for Alberta’s governing soccer body says wearing hijabs can pose a threat to player safety.
Safaa Menhem arrived late in the first half of her game with the Chinook Phantom under-16 girls team at the Calgary Soccer Centre Saturday. After her first shift in the game, the referee told the coach she couldn’t play if she wore her hijab.
At half time, the rest of the team – with the support of parents in the stands – threatened to forfeit the game in protest, but Menhem urged them to keep playing. “She walked off the field with her head down in tears thinking she’d done something wrong, which she hadn’t,” said her eldest brother Hekmet Menhem, 27, who may face disciplinary action for confronting the referee on the field. “The look I saw on her face when she came off killed me. That’s when I snapped.”