United Nations backs hijab in football

The United Nations has joined the campaign to overturn the ban on the hijab in football four days before the sport's rule makers are due to review the decision.

The U.N. Secretary-General's special adviser on sport for development and peace Wilfried Lemke has written to FIFA President Sepp Blatter expressing support for the right to wear a safe, Velcro-opening headscarf.

Lemke expressed his hope that "the issue can be resolved in a way that respects both the Laws of the Game as well as cultural considerations, while promoting football for all women without discrimination," the U.N. said in a statement.

"It would send the message that each female player, from the top elite level down to the grassroots, has the freedom to decide whether or not to wear this particular piece of attire while on the field.

"It would give the opportunity for remarkable female athletes to demonstrate that wearing the headscarf is not an obstacle to excelling in life and sports, and would hence contribute to challenging gender stereotypes and bringing about a change in mentalities."

While Olympic sports such as rugby and taekwondo allow Muslim women to wear the headscarf in competition, football is opposed for safety reasons.

Last year the Iran women's football team were prevented from playing their 2012 Olympic second round qualifying match against Jordan because they refused to remove their hijabs before kick-off.

Iran, who had topped their group in the first round of Olympic qualifiers after going undefeated, were given 3-0 defeats as a penalty which abruptly ended their dreams of qualifying for the London Olympics.

The ban will be reviewed by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) which meets in England on Saturday

Founded in 1886, it is football's ultimate law-making body comprising four members from FIFA and four from the British associations.

FIFA Vice-President Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein of Jordan will present the case for allowing players to use a Dutch-designed Velcro hijab which comes apart if pulled.