A 12-year-old Hindu football player of Indian origin, Shubh Patel, was reportedly asked off the pitch during a game for wearing a ‘mala’ in Brisbane, Australia. The mala was made from the seeds of basil wood (kanthi mala), worn by some followers of Hinduism.
According to Australia todayShubh after receiving an ultimatum from the referee politely refused to take off his mala which he has worn since he was five years old.
“I would rather continue to follow my religion than break it…just for a football game,” Shubh said in a media interview. Young club member Toowong informed that it is against Hinduism to remove the mala.
Shubh, a follower of the Swaminarayan sect, added, “If I had removed him, then God would have sensed that I had ceased to believe in him.
The Hindu boy claimed that the mala gave him comfort and also made him feel safe. Shubh then continued to watch his team play sitting on the sidelines.
It was the first time Shubh had been asked to remove his mala. The report suggests that he played fifteen games wearing the mala and not once was asked by his coach or teammate to take it off.
‘No religious symbols’ says the rules
According to the rules of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), a player must not wear equipment or anything dangerous at the time of the match.
Prior to 2014, FIFA also banned the hijab, saying it posed a great risk of injury to the player’s head or neck.
Football Queensland apologizes
Football Queensland, the governing body for football and futsal in Queensland, Australia, has launched an investigation and also issued an apology to Shubh Patel’s family and Toowong Soccer Club following the incident.
“Football remains Queensland’s most welcoming and inclusive sport, respectful and embracing of all cultures and religions,” Football Queensland said in a statement.