A 12-year-old Hindu soccer player of Indian origin Shubh Patel was reportedly asked to leave the field during a match for wearing a ‘mala’ in Australia’s Brisbane. The mala was was made of basil wood beeds (kanthi mala), worn by some adherents of Hinduism.
As per The Australia Today, Shubh on getting an ultimatum from the referee politely declined to remove his mala which he has been wearing since the age of five.
“I would rather keep following my religion than like break it…just for one soccer game,” said Shubh while speaking with the media. The young member of the Toowong club informed that it was against Hinduism to remove the mala.
Shubh, Swaminarayan sect follower, further said, “If I would have taken it off then at that time God would have felt that I have stopped believing in Him.”
The Hindu boy asserted that the mala provides him comfort and also makes him feel safe. Shubh then continued to watch his team play sitting on the sidelines.
This was the first time Shubh was asked to remove his mala. The report suggests that he has played fifteen matches wearing the mala and not once was he asked to take it off by his coach or teammate.
‘No religious symbols’ says rules
Reportedly, as per Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) rules, a player must not sport any equipment or wear anything dangerous at the time of the game.
Prior to 2014 FIFA too had imposed a ban on hijab saying it posed a great risk of injury to the head or neck of the player.
Football Queensland apologises
Football Queensland, the governing body of football and futsal in Queensland, Australia has initiated an investigation and also issued an apology to Shubh Patel’s family and Toowong Soccer Club following the incident.
“Football remains the most welcoming and inclusive sport in Queensland, respectful and embracing of all cultures and religions,” said Football Queensland in a statement.