The hijabi-wearing Moroccan making World Cup historical past

When Nouhaila Benzina steps onto the sector for Morocco’s first match of the Women’s World Cup towards Germany, she is going to make historical past — and never simply as a participant for the primary Arab or North African nation ever within the match.

The 25-year-old defender would be the first participant to put on the Islamic scarf on the senior-level Women’s World Cup. She and the Atlas Lionesses face two-time World Cup champions Germany in Melbourne, Australia, on Monday.

“Girls will look at Benzina (and think) ‘That could be me,’” stated Assmaah Helal, a co-founder of the Muslim Women in Sports Network stated of the hijab. “Also the policymakers, the decision-makers, the administrators will say, ‘We need to do more in our country to create these accepting and open and inclusive spaces for women and girls to participate in the game.’”

Benzina, who performs skilled membership soccer for the Association’s Sports of Forces Armed Royal – the eight-time defending champions in Morocco’s high ladies’s league – hasn’t but been made out there to talk to reporters right here on the Women’s World Cup. In latest weeks, she has shared social media posts from others concerning the history-making nature of her World Cup look.

“We are honored to be the first Arab country to take part in the Women’s World Cup,” Morocco captain Ghizlane Chebbak stated on Sunday, “and we feel that we have to shoulder a big responsibility to give a good image, to show the achievements the Moroccan team has made.”

Nouhaila Benzina is ready to make historical past


Had Morocco certified for the Women’s World Cup a decade in the past, a participant who wished to put on the hijab throughout a recreation might need been pressured to decide on between that and representing her nation.

In 2007, a referee barred an 11-year-old Canadian lady from carrying a hijab throughout a membership match. When the problem reached FIFA, the game’s world governing physique banned head coverings in competitions it sanctioned, aside from coverings that uncovered the neck.

FIFA cited “health and safety” considerations, some associated to doable choking, with rules forbidding “equipment that is dangerous to himself or another player.”

“That really sent a strong message to Muslim women, particularly those who wear hijabs, (that) we don’t belong,” stated Helal, an Australia-based operations supervisor of Creating Chances and Football United.

Helal was among the many social activists, Muslim athletes, and authorities and soccer officers who labored to overturn the ban.

In 2012, FIFA granted the Asian Football Confederation a two-year trial interval throughout which gamers could be allowed to put on head coverings at worldwide competitions. No senior-level World Cups, males’s or ladies’s, had been scheduled in the course of the trial interval.

In 2014, FIFA lifted its ban on head coverings. Two years later, the under-17 Women’s World Cup in Jordan marked the primary time Muslim gamers wore headscarves throughout a world FIFA occasion.

Maryan Hagi-Hashi, a Melbourne resident who attended Morocco’s public observe session final week, stated she is supporting the Atlas Lionesses alongside match co-host Australia. She appreciates the illustration that the Moroccan crew and Benzina present, she stated.

“There’s a mixture of (Muslim) women that wear hijab and don’t wear a hijab,” Hagi-Hashi stated. “I think the world has realized there is diversity.”

Helal stated that for the reason that ban was lifted, she has seen a rise in Muslim women and girls enjoying soccer, pursuing teaching pathways and main their very own soccer golf equipment.

“I think it’s key to understand that the hijab is an essential part of a Muslim woman, should she choose to wear it,” Helal stated. “It’s actually part of our identities.”

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