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Finland's National League offers players sports hijabs

The move is intended to encourage young players from diverse backgrounds to participate in football as well as other sports.

Finnish National League donates hijabs to players.
The sports hijab will be part of the kit offered to players by clubs. Image: Finnish Football Association

When a child or young person starts playing football in Finland, the club usually provides jerseys, shorts and socks. From this spring onwards, a sports hijab will also be offered to players that wish to use one.

"It has been more challenging for girls with an immigrant background to get involved in hobbies than it has been for boys," the Football Association of Finland's head of women's football development Heidi Pihlaja explained. "Over the last couple of years, we have wanted to further lower the threshold to practice despite different starting points, regardless of gender, religion, skin colour or other factors."

The move to begin donating hijabs is part of a celebration to mark the 50th anniversary of organised women's football in Finland, and the donation is intended to show that football belongs to everyone and to encourage new players to try out the sport.

"Finland is more and more diverse and we want to take better account of different needs when girls become part of the football family," Pihlaja said.

Sara Salmani, an expert on diversity and inclusiveness who was involved in the design phase of the project, told Yle that donating sports hijabs is a testament to the fact that the National League really stands behind its values and continues its active work against racism.

"An ordinary hijab is not always very practical in sports. Donating a sports hijab is a really significant statement that every player is welcome and valued. Finland is leading the way, showing that diversity belongs not only to sports but also to everyday life," Salmani said.

"The hijab is often discussed negatively in Finland as well, although the most important thing is that a woman can choose what to wear," Salmani added.

The Finnish FA further said that it wants to challenge other sports federations to take into account the different needs of players.

"The game should be open to all," Pihlaja said.

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