Fatima Habib, a 13-year-old Pakistani girl described as the “star player” of Clube Basquetebol de Tavira’s under-16 team, was prevented from playing on Sunday (November 10) after refusing to remove a black long-sleeved jersey that she was wearing under her team’s official basketball uniform.
Portugal’s Basketball Federation (FPB) has refused any kind of discrimination and said the referees were only following the international basketball guidelines.
The bitter row erupted after Habib tried to explain to the referees that she was wearing the long-sleeved undershirt because her religion did not allow her to show her arms. However, the explanation did not convince the officiating team and the youngster was not allowed to play against Imortal de Albufeira.
The story was widely reported yesterday, with the team’s coach André Pacheco telling Jornal de Notícias that at least one of the referees had already refereed one of Habib’s matches and did not prevent her from playing.
The coach did however say that there was someone from Portugal’ Basketball Federation (FPB) attending the match which may have “put some pressure” on the referees.
The 13-year-old even suggested rolling up the sleeves to her elbows, but the referees were adamant that she had to take off the long-sleeved jersey or she couldn’t play.
Her coach said the situation was “unacceptable” while Habib said she was “shocked, cried and then prayed” and added that the same situation had already happened to her in a Physical Education class five years ago.
The FPB has put out a statement denying that the youngster was discriminated against in any way.
“Our regulations condemn any kind of discrimination, be it against gender, ethnicity or religion,” the federation said.
It explained that the international regulations set by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) “respect religious and cultural freedom” and allow players to use religious sportswear so long as it allows them to move properly and ensures the safety of all players.
The federation, despite not explaining exactly why Habib’s jersey went against the rules, said that the team’s coach had already been warned that her religious sportswear would have to comply with the FIBA guidelines in a match held a week earlier.
“The FPB refutes the reports that the player was prevented from playing for refusing to show her arms,” it says, adding that it even contacted Habib’s family in order to clarify the situation and the FIBA guidelines.