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Canadian Soccer Association intervenes on Quebec turban ban, suspends QSF

Quebec Sikhs like Aneel Samra may again be able to play organized soccer in turbans if the CSA's intervention is …

Following the worldwide uproar over the Quebec Soccer Federation's decision to ban recreational soccer players from wearing turbans last week, the Canadian Soccer Association has decided to intervene, announcing Monday night that they're suspending the Quebec body until the ban is reversed. From a policy standpoint, that's not particularly surprising: the CSA specifically approved turbans earlier this year and recently told the QSF they had until Monday to reverse their stance. It's also notable that Quebec doesn't have support elsewhere here: their actions have received heavy criticism from around the world, and although the QSF cited world soccer governing body FIFA's lack of inclusion of turbans in their equipment policies, a FIFA spokesman later told Toronto resident Raghav Sandu via e-mail that the world governing body views turbans like hijabs and the global organization believes they should be allowed. However, the CSA's component provincial associations have long held much of the power in Canadian soccer (and QSF president Martial Prud'homme is a CSA board member), so it's still somewhat unexpected to see the national body take a strong stance against one of its component groups. Here's the key part of the CSA's statement:

“The Canadian Soccer Association has requested on 6 June that the Quebec Soccer Federation reverse its position on turbans/patkas/keski with no resolution,” said Victor Montagliani, President of the Canadian Soccer Association, following the Board of Directors meeting. “The Quebec Soccer Federation’s inaction has forced us to take measures in order to ensure soccer remains accessible to the largest number of Canadians.”

The suspension will be lifted once the Canadian Soccer Association receives demonstration that the Quebec Soccer Federation has lifted the ban and applies satisfactorily the Canadian Soccer Association’s policy in the matter.

It's unclear what this will actually mean for soccer in Quebec. It's possible it could lead to Quebec teams being barred from national tournaments. Theoretically, it could even cause problems for a professional club like the Montreal Impact. However, there isn't a lot of precedent here: national federations have been suspended by FIFA before, and that's led to cancelled matches, but a national body suspending one of its own component bodies is much rarer. If the FIFA statement sent to Sandu is accurate, though, it's hard to see FIFA doing anything other than either supporting the CSA's decision or just sitting this one out. Thus, it seems unlikely the QSF going to be able to overturn this. However, we don't know just what the CSA can do to make them fall in line.

While we don't know exactly how much the CSA's suspension of the QSF will mean, perhaps we'll never have to find out. If Prud'homme and the rest of the QSF rethink their position and fall into line, then it will be a lot of sound and fury that doesn't signify much in the end. Really, at this point, that would be the best possible resolution; there's no need for any team in Quebec to run into difficulties over an issue that's already been settled nationally and on the worldwide stage. However, if Prud'homme and the QSF elect to stick to their guns, things could get really interesting. That could prove an excellent example of just where the power rests in Canadian soccer: the CSA's talking tough for once, but will they be able to actually force Quebec into line?

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