Girl players leave high school soccer game after complaints from Muslim boys’ team

Bad call but good corrective action:

The senior boys’ soccer team from Robert F. Hall Catholic Secondary School in Caledon, Ont., was up 3-1 at the half on Tuesday when the coach pulled aside Carla Briscoe, one of two girls on the team.

Briscoe, who was in the starting lineup, wondered if she was being called out for playing too rough, but it turned out the coach from the opposing school, ISNA High, an independent Islamic school in Mississauga, Ont., had told the referee his team could not continue playing because of the presence of girls on the field.

As much as the competitive 18-year-old senior wanted to continue playing, she agreed to sit out the rest of the game. The team needed the extra points and it would be unfair to stop the game when some of her teammates hadn’t taken to the field.

“I said to my coach, ‘I’d rather see everybody play. I don’t want to ruin this for the rest of the team. Me and the other girl will sit out.’ ”

Their team went on to win 6-1. But win or lose, the girls should never have been put in that situation, Paul Freier, chairman of the Region of Peel Secondary School Athletic Association (ROPSSAA), said Friday.

‘Our position on this is these are the rules of engagement. … Going forward, it’s our hope all teams will have an understanding’

The rules governing sports in the region mirror those set by the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations, which states if a sport is not available to girls at a school, they can join the boys’ team after a successful tryout.

Freier sent an email Friday to the ISNA coach making it clear schools must abide by those rules. If they don’t like them, they are free to leave the athletic association.

“Every school that joins ROPSSAA, it’s a voluntary membership,” Freier said. “We will continue to adhere strictly to those constitutions and bylaws.”

A statement issued by the school Friday said it regretted the female players felt they could not participate.

“It was never the team’s intention to exclude female participation, which was reflected in the offer to forfeit. The team sincerely regrets if any team members or participants were hurt or felt discriminated based on their gender.”

Earlier, Essa Abdool-Karim, the ISNA coach, told CityNews the team was “caught off-guard” by the presence of girls on the team.

Girl players leave high school soccer game after complaints from Muslim boys’ team

Chris Selley’s commentary:

Sometimes, religious accommodation is hard. Reasonable people will disagree. Is it an affront to secular society to allow a Muslim congregation to organize Friday prayers in a public school cafeteria? Or is it simply a practical way of minimizing disruption to the school day? Kirpans in schools? Public servants in niqabs? The Lord’s Prayer at city council? Hmm, well on the one hand, but on the other hand …

Sometimes, though, religious accommodation is not complicated. Sometimes you don’t even need those two words. Sometimes it’s just a soccer team refusing to play another soccer team. That’s what CityNews reports occurred this week on a Brampton, Ont., pitch: a team from ISNA Private Islamic High School objected to their opponents, Robert F. Hall Catholic School, fielding two girls. Losing 3-1 at halftime, the INSA team declined to finish the match unless the ladies left the pitch.

And you’ll never believe what happened next: “The girls on [the Catholic] team told CityNews they insisted on sitting out for the second half to allow the game to continue.”

Now, I choose to believe they did that so the thumping they were delivering could continue, perhaps redoubled in response to the No Gurlz complaint: Robert F. Hall added three more goals in the second half to win 6-1.

But they shouldn’t have been allowed to sit out. Period. Not by their coaches, and not by the referee. There is no need to parse the INSA coach’s attempts to foster what CityNews describes as an “an open dialogue.” There is no need to put ourselves in the INSA players’ shoes and walk a mile. “We want them to understand this balance between religion and having to sacrifice the sport you love is a difficult situation,” says the coach. “We want inclusion for all.”

This is dead simple: We have a perfectly good soccer team refusing to take to a perfectly good pitch to face another perfectly good team. Thus, they forfeit the game. Both teams advanced in the tournament. They might face each other again. The INSA coach told CityNews he doubted his team would agree to play. At last report the Region of Peel Secondary School Athletic Association was for some reason “gathering their facts” in order to determine “how to proceed” in this “uncharted territory.”

The facts: Perfectly good Team A refuses to play perfectly good Team B for no good reason. How to proceed: Team A forfeits. See how easy this is?

Don’t want to play soccer against girls? You lose

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

One Response to Girl players leave high school soccer game after complaints from Muslim boys’ team

  1. Pingback: We need skilled footwork around religious freedom, gender equity: Sheema Khan | Multicultural Meanderings

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