Asia urges FIFA to lift hijab ban

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- The Asian Football Confederation has urged soccer's world governing body to approve a headscarf with safety features for use by Islamic female players.

FIFA banned the hijab or headscarf in 2007 for safety reasons, a move condemned by Islamic leaders and sports officials. Iran's team forfeited a 2012 Olympic women's qualifier against Jordan in June because the players refused to play without the hijabs.

AFC acting chief Zhang Jilong said in a statement Monday a favorable decision by the International Football Association Board, when it debates the issue on March 3 in London, is crucial to the future of women's soccer worldwide.

He said new headscarves are available with a Velcro opening at the neck to ensure players' safety.