A 12-year-old Hindu soccer player of Indian origin Shubh Patel was sent off the field for wearing a religious necklace made of beads (mala).
The Toowong club member told Channel Seven News that it is against Hinduism to remove the beads necklace.
Shubh added that he’s worn it every other game this season.
In fact, Shubh has worn his religious necklace since the age of five as a Hindu Swaminarayan.
Shubh told Channel Seven News:
“If I take it off then at that time God would…like…feel that I have stopped believing in Him.”
Apart from its religious significance, the religious necklace provides Shubh comfort and makes him feel safe.
However, the referee gave Shubh an ultimatum – no beads or no game time.
As per Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) rules, a player must not use equipment or wear anything dangerous.
This includes items of jewellery such as necklaces, rings, bracelets, earrings, leather bands, rubber bands, etc
All of the above are forbidden and must be removed by a soccer player before entering the field.
However, Shubh had responded to the referee by declining to take off his religious necklace.
“I would rather keep following my religion than like break it…just for one soccer game.”
Some parents also requested Shubh to take off his religious necklace but he politely refused to do so.
Shubh sat on the sidelines and watched the game as his teammates played.
It was upsetting for the young Hindu boy as he has played fifteen matches wearing his religious necklace and not once he had been asked to take it off by either his coach or team mates.
It must be noted that in 2014 FIFA had lifted its ban on wearing hijabs in soccer matches.
Prior to this decision, FIFA had said that the hijab too posed a great risk of injury to the head or neck of the player.
Later, following a request from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), FIFA authorised the wearing of Islamic head covers for religious purposes during matches.
In addition, after another request from the Sikh community in Canada, this rule was open for Sikh male players as well playing soccer worldwide.
Football Queensland launched an investigation and has apologised to Shubh Patel’s family and Toowong Soccer Club.
In a statement Football Queensland said:
“Football remains the most welcoming and inclusive sport in Queensland, respectful and embracing of all cultures and religions.”
For now, Shubh Patel has been awarded special permission to play soccer while following his Hindu religious practice of wearing a religious necklace.