Finland's National League offers the hijab to any player that wants one

Finland’s National League offers hijabs to any player that wants one


Finland’s top division of women’s football, the National League is making hijabs free to any player that wants one.

Heidi Pihlaja, head of women’s football development from the Football Association of Finland, said in a press release that the plan to make soccer uniforms “more hijabi appropriate,” is in line with her country’s reputation as being a “a country of equal opportunities.”

“We know that there is still a lot to be done as Finland is becoming an ever-more diverse society,” Pihlaja wrote. “By donating hijabs we want to show our dedication to making football accessible to everyone.” 

“For us equality is about accepting everyone as they are regardless of their religious beliefs, colour of their skin or other attributes and identities,” she added. “We hope that us leading by example encourages other sports and football associations to join us in promoting equality and equity in sports.”

The distribution of hijabs in Finland is a collaboration between Nike and the Finnish government, and was organised with expert of diversity, equity and inclusion, Sara Salmani.

In Finland, a country of just over 6 million and known as a gender equality pioneer, children who play football are given kits, shorts, and socks by their teams, though sport hijabs were not previously offered. 

In 2018, a survey done by the Pew Research Center found that up to two-thirds of citizens “revealed they believe Islam is fundamentally incompatible with the culture and values in Finland”, and more than a quarter said that they would not accept a Muslim as a family member.

The governing body of football however wants to promote equality and diversity and says it is something it takes “very seriously.”

In February last year, the football association removed the word “women” from the title of its highest women’s football league to defy the “existing attitudes in sports.”

In 2019, it also changed the rules so that there was equal pay for both men and women players who compete for the Finnish national teams.

Most recently, 16 year-old Mariem Chourak founded the #HandsOffMyHijab movement to protest against the amendment to an ‘anti-separatism’ bill by senators in France which applies to girls under 18 and is designed to bolster France’s secular values.

France banned religious garments In 2004, including the Muslim hijab in state schools. Six years later, it banned full-face veils in all public spaces. 

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