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Asian football chief urges lawmaking body to lift ban on Islamic headscarves for women players

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - The Asian Football Confederation on Monday urged football's top lawmaking body to approve a headscarf with safety features for use by Islamic female players.

Football governing body FIFA banned the hijab or headscarf in 2007 for safety reasons, a move condemned by Islamic leaders and sports officials. Iran's team forfeited a 2012 Olympic women's qualifier against Jordan in June because the players refused to play without the hijabs.

AFC acting chief Zhang Jilong, who is also a FIFA executive committee member, said a favourable decision by the International Football Association Board when it debates the issue on March 3 in London is crucial to the future of women's football worldwide.

Since banning the hijab in 2007, FIFA last year extended the safety rule to include neck warmers, which were also judged a possible choking threat.

In December, FIFA's Executive Committee agreed to put forward a proposal to amend the rules following a presentation AFC vice-president Prince Ali Bin Hussein of Jordan, who called on for rule-maker the IFAB to sanction a safe, Velcro-opening headscarf for players and officials.

"Many women footballers in Asia wear headscarves. I would like to request the IFAB to favourably consider FIFA's proposal and review the rule and allow women players to play wearing a safe headscarf that covers the neck," Zhang said in a statement.

Zhang said several new headscarf designs that ensure player safety were now available on the market.

"I have personally seen the new designs with a Velcro joined at the neck, which releases if the headscarf is pulled, ensuring the player's safety," he added.

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