As the sole hijabi player among 736 participants, Benzina's representation is significant and inspiring for others who wear the hijab and have a passion for the sport.
Moroccan soccer player Nouhaila Benzina is all set to make history as the first player to wear the hijab at the Women's World Cup. The 25-year-old will be the tournament's first-ever hijabi athlete. Morocco will kick off their campaign against Germany on July 24. While there have been other hijabi players at the junior level, Benzina is making the way for other senior athletes. The 25-year-old is all set for the team's upcoming maiden World Cup campaign, reports Versus.
25 year old Nouhaila Benzina for the Atlas Lionesses will be the only Hijabi athlete out of 736 participating players in the 2023 Women’s World Cup.— SHE scores bangers (@SHEscoresbanger) July 11, 2023
Morocco’s participation is the first ever from a MENA region. The nation and the players are inspiring more than one can imagine. pic.twitter.com/AomfqriNaY
People around the world have welcomed Benzina's depiction of devotion to her beliefs, identity and love for the game. Reach Women's Football tweeted, "Incredible to see more history being made at this year's Women's World Cup in the shape of Moroccan footballer Nouhaila Benzina wearing a hijab for the first time ever." SHE scores bangers added, "25-year-old Nouhaila Benzina for the Atlas Lionesses will be the only Hijabi athlete out of 736 participating players in the 2023 Women's World Cup. Morocco's participation is the first ever from a MENA region. The nation and the players are inspiring more than one can imagine."
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Benzina will be the only one wearing a hijab out of 736 players. Representation matters and her impact will affect many others who also wear the hijab and have a passion for the sport to do what they love no matter what. In 2007, FIFA banned all headdresses calling the garment 'a safety risk' but lifted the ban after seven years.
However, many countries, notably France and the French Football Federation, still exclude hijabi players from participating in the sport. It bans "any sign or clothing clearly showing political, philosophical, religious or union affiliation" by France's controversial 'Veil Law' passed in 2004.
“We will fight until every woman can play the sport that she wants to play, how she wants to play.”—Hawa Doucouré @IbtGd reports on women's soccer team speaking out against French Football Federation's ban on hijabs in club matches, international games. https://t.co/yKeQH4vKsF pic.twitter.com/nCSirZo8ta— ABC News Live (@ABCNewsLive) August 13, 2021
Many groups like Les Hijabeuses, a group of at least 80 hijabi football players in France, have been fighting for the right to wear a hijab while playing the sport they love, reports Versus. "What we want is to be accepted as we are, to implement these grand slogans of diversity, inclusiveness," said Founé Diawara, the president of Les Hijabeuses, to The New York Times. "Our only desire is to play soccer."
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The French Football Federation continues the ban throughout club matches and international games, telling ABC News in 2021 that it "promotes and defends the values of secularism, living together, neutrality and the fight against all forms of discrimination." Players want religious freedom while doing what they love and they are not giving up. At the time, 19-year-old soccer player Hawa Doucouré told the outlet, "We are strong together and we will fight to the end. We will fight until every woman can play the sport that she wants to play, how she wants to play it."