Soccer girl no quitter
Asmahan eyes future as voice for Muslim sportswomen
By NELLY ELAYOUBI, OTTAWA SUN MEDIA (March)
Asmahan Mansour is an ordinary kid. She enjoys hot chocolate every morning. She watches Lizzie McGuire on TV.
She's a tomboy, a girl wedged between an older and younger brother.
She loves playing sports. In the summer when she wakes up, the first thing she does is go outside to shoot hoops or juggle a soccer ball.
Soccer is the passion of this happy-go-lucky girl and the past week has seen her in the spotlight for what she loves most -- playing the game.
Asmahan was ejected from an indoor soccer tournament last weekend in Quebec because she refused to remove her religious head scarf, known as a hijab.
The referee ruled her hijab a safety concern and the issue went all the way to the world's soccer regulator, FIFA. Officials decided Saturday to maintain Law 4 which states players "must not use equipment or wear anything that is dangerous to himself or another player (including any kind of jewelry)."
"As parents, we do not put our children in unsafe circumstances," said Maria Mansour, Asmahan's mom. "I would not put my daughter in a situation where she could be in danger."
Asmahan wants the spotlight turned off .
Maria, 38, an Italian-Canadian who converted to Islam 17 years ago, was speaking on her daughter's behalf.
A week before Asmahan's ninth birthday, she approached her parents and said she wanted to wear the hijab. Her parents explained that it was a big decision and wanted her to be sure that it was what she truly wanted.
"She's very mature in her thinking and knows and understands this all," Maria said.
It's about being closer to God. It's about showing humility and Asmahan said she would never take it off, "not even for $1 million."
"It's what makes her her," Maria said.
Asmahan matches her hijab to her soccer uniform and it's either red or white. She has yellow scarfs, pink scarfs, but mostly wears blue, her favourite colour, to match her eyes.
To ask her to remove her hijab, Maria said, would be a violation and no different than asking a girl to take her top off.
This week has left Asmahan exhausted, but not defeated, her mother said.
She hopes to one day be a voice for Muslim women who want to compete in sports. Until then, she'll only play soccer in places where she knows she'll be accepted.
"She's a strong girl at 11 years old and one day wants to make a difference for other girls," Maria said.