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Qatar forfeit game over hijab ruling

Published:Thursday | September 25, 2014 | 12:00 AM

INCHEON, South Korea (AP): Qatari basketballers forfeited a women's match against Mongolia yesterday and are considering withdrawing from the Asian Games competition after being refused permission to wear a hijab.

Confusion over the implementation of recently relaxed guidelines outlined by the sport's international governing body, the Federation of International Basketball Associations (FIBA), aimed at making the game more inclusive, could be the cause of the problem in Incheon.

"The Qatari players ... refused to take off the hijab," Asian Games Organising Committee spokeswoman Anna Jihyun You told The Associated Press. Ten minutes after the scheduled start, "At 4:25 p.m. local time, the match was declared forfeited and awarded to Mongolia."

The Qatari contingent was surprised by the decision, with its chef de mission Khalil al-Jabir saying the team "was not likely to play" basketball in these Asian Games if the players are not allowed to wear the hijab.

"We were expecting our players to play with the hijab, that's why we came here," he said. "Nobody told us that it will not be allowed and we are still waiting for clarifications."

Earlier this month, FIBA said it was launching a two-year trial phase allowing some players to wear head coverings.

However, the Mies, Switzerland-based organisation issued a clarifying statement saying: "Please note the Central Board decision allows exceptions to be applied only at the national level and the Asian Games is an international event."

To get an exemption for domestic tournaments, national federations must petition FIBA to allow players to play with their heads covered, plus submit follow-up reports twice a year.