High school athletic officials in a Canadian community have found themselves at the center of a controversy involving religion, gender, and high school sports after the coach at a Muslim school complained about his boys having to compete against a team that included girls, CTV News is reporting.
Last Tuesday, the boys’ soccer team at ISNA High School in the Toronto suburbs — a Muslim high school — played a soccer game against Robert F. Hall Catholic Secondary School. The Catholic school’s team included two girls, who were on the field — at least for the first half of the game.
If you’re wondering why girls were competing on a boys’ team, it’s because the Catholic school didn’t have a girls’ team. According to the National Post, the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations rules state that if a school doesn’t offer a girls’ team in a particular sport, girls can play on the boys’ team if they try out and can make the cut.
Carla Briscoe, one of two girls on the Catholic team, says that her coach pulled her aside at halftime. The 18-year-old senior was asked if she’d be willing to sit out the rest of the game, because the coach at the Muslim school had objected to having to compete against a team with girls on it.
“I said to my coach, ‘I’d rather see everybody play. I don’t want to ruin this for the rest of the team. Me and the other girl will sit out.’ “
ISNA lost 6-1 to the Catholic team.
On Friday, The Region of Peel Secondary School Athletic Association (ROPSSAA) ruled that, going forward, any team that objects to competing against a mixed-gender team must either forfeit, or play anyway. ROPSSAA chair Paul Freier explains as follows.
“We assume every school that joins is expected to adhere to the constitution and bylaws of ROPSSAA.”
For their part, the Muslim school apologized for the misunderstanding. In a statement, the school claimed that the players and coaches on the boys’ team meant no disrespect.
“The opposing team chose to substitute the female players as opposed to accepting the forfeit. In hindsight, ISNA high school regrets that the female players felt they could not participate. It was never the team’s intention to exclude female participation, which was reflected in the offer to forfeit. The team sincerely regrets if any team members or participants were hurt or felt discriminated based on their gender due to the accommodation made by the opposing team.”
The Muslim team and the Catholic team may have to play each other again Monday night.
[Image courtesy of: Shutterstock / Fotokostic]