Zurich, AP—Soccer’s global governing body FIFA will officially allow male and female players to cover their heads during soccer matches for religious reasons.
The decision was approved a meeting of the sport’s rules-making panel, the International Football Association Board (IFAB), in Zurich on Saturday, and will mean that items such as headscarves for women or turbans for men can be worn during matches.
“It was decided that female players can cover their heads to play,” said FIFA Secretary-General Jerome Valcke after the meeting.
“It was decided that male players can play with head cover too. It will be a basic head cover and the colour should be the same as the team jersey,” he said.
He added that Jordan’s hosting of the FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup played a decisive role in the taking of the decision.
The wearing of all head covers during matches had been banned until 2012. FIFA had claimed they posed an injury risk to the player’s head or neck. However, following tests taking place over the last two years, the governing body has made the approval.
On Saturday, IFAB also banned players from revealing any slogans or images on their undershirts during the upcoming World Cup in Brazil.
The ban, which had previously related only to political and religious statements and advertising, will take effect on June 1, in time for the competition.
The panel said breaking the rule was not a yellow-card offense, though players can be disciplined by competition organizers.
“We think it’s the simplest rule for the image of the game to start from the basis that there is no room for slogans, images or alternative sponsor logos on the undershirt,” said IFAB member Alex Horne, general secretary of England’s Football Association.
At the 2010 World Cup final, Spain midfielder Andres Iniesta scored the winning goal then took off his shirt to reveal a statement on his undershirt dedicated to a Spanish player who died that season. That act will now lead to a probable FIFA fine in addition to a yellow card for removing the shirt.
The tougher rule on personal messages also follows incidents this season when players including Didier Drogba of Galatasaray revealed tributes to Nelson Mandela on their undershirts.
Italy forward Mario Balotelli famously revealed “Why Always Me?” written on his undershirt in 2011 after scoring for his then-club Manchester City against crosstown rival Manchester United.
Still, the IFAB panel—comprising FIFA and the four British associations—agreed the England-proposed amendment would help avoid complications with statements having different meanings in different languages and cultures.
“It is better to say no and have a clean situation,” Valcke said following the meeting.