Sikh player in head covering row welcomes FA rule update for refs – Report

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Charan Singh Basra

By Asia Samachar | Britain |

A Sikh footballer who was sent off for confronting an opponent who tugged on his head covering has welcomed new guidance for referees, reports BBC Asian Network.

Midfielder Charan Singh Basra got a second yellow card when he reacted to another player touching the patka he wears for religious reasons. It prompted a wave of complaints to The Football Association (FA). It’s now told officials that what happened to Charan could be a red-card offence, according to the report. The new guidance says referees should send off any player who deliberately and inappropriately touches a religious head covering.

Charan, who plays for semi-pro side Langford FC, tells BBC Asian Network the change is “needed” after his experience.

“You get people saying stuff now and again” on the pitch, he says. But his experience during the Spartan South Midlands League match in January “was the first time anyone’s ever touched my patka”, he says.

“It just comes down to being educated. It’s an awareness,” Charan tells the news broadcaster. “Half the time the players do it not with the intention of being racist, they just aren’t aware that it’s such a significant part of a Sikh’s identity.”

“There were two incidents during this game where my Patka (religious head covering) was pulled at…The referee was informed after both incidents yet remained despondent, even after informing him that it is a religious symbol,” Charan said in a statement released by the British-based Sikh Press Association on what transpired in the game on Jan 5.

Here’s the full statement:

The following statement is in relation to the incident that occurred during the Real Bedford vs Langford game where Real Bedford players pulled at my religious head covering.

Before explaining the incident I would like to give some contextual background about a Sikhs hair and their Turban. Kesh (uncut hair) is the practice of allowing one’s hair to grow naturally out of respect for the perfection of God’s creation. It is kept with the upmost respect and covered by a turban. British Sikhs who served in both World Wars refused to replace their turbans with steel helmets (a lawful command). Despite potential death being the punishment for disobeying a lawful command, Sikhs were willing to choose that option over replacing their turbans – that is how highly our hair/turbans are regarded. I personally wear a turban daily and during sporting activities this is replaced by a Patka (a smaller head covering). I have not cut my hair once in my 29 years which is why I have not taken lightly to the following actions.

There were two incidents during this game where my Patka (religious head covering) was pulled at, both videos have been attached. The referee was informed after both incidents yet remained despondent, even after informing him that it is a religious symbol. Contrary to Real Bedford’s statement, these were the only two incidents I was involved in which will be supported once the full video is obtained. The first incident you can see me winning the ball both times before being thrown off the ball, I’ve then attempted to regain possession. In an attempted to play the ball, I was slightly late and caught the player, not dangerous play in the slightest (that is not my character), my studs were down and my body remained on the ground. The reaction from the Real Bedford players however was not acceptable. The video footage provided by Real Bedford ‘conveniently’ turns away from the incident once I am thrown to the floor, hopefully the unedited video obtained will show events clearer. A Real Bedford player has hit me in the face and pulled at my Patka. You can quite clearly see me on the floor holding my face with one hand while the other hand is trying to keep my Patka on my head. I have been playing football for over 20 years, been in numerous tackles, headed the ball on multiple occasions and my Patka has not once come loose as I tie it securely. That shows the amount of force that would’ve been needed to remove it from my head, which is why I am sure it was pulled at intentionally. Once the video footage is obtained you will see my trying to retie/secure my Patka on the pitch for the next 5/10 minutes after the incident. From my introductory background about Sikhs hair/head covering, I am sure you can appreciate the significance of this players action.

Real Bedford’s statement incorrectly mentions dangerous tackles on many occasions, which quite frankly is astonishing as to where they have obtained this from – again video evidence will show the correct story. The second incident started from a horrible tackle from behind with no intention of winning the ball by Jordan Brown on one of our players. Difference being you didn’t see any of our players crowding the offender as Real Bedford players did with me in the first incident. You’ll see from the footage that a number of Langford players simply moved Jordan Brown away from the player injured on the floor and walked away, Jordan has directly come back and targeted me and you can quite clearly see him tugging at the back of my Patka. The Referee was told by myself and the linesman what Jordan Brown had done but again no repercussion for pulling on a religious head covering?

You may be aware that this incident has gained significant traction online with over 1 million views in just 24 hours and now a news article. Langford and myself have not partaken in any of these social media interactions. I personally do not think Jordan Brown or anyone at Real Bedford is racially profiling, I think they are just uneducated on the matter however this does not excuse their actions and repercussions need to be taken. The Referee needs to answer to why he thought actions of pulling on my Patka were not serious enough to be taken into consideration, it was his job to protect me from such incidents but failed. There needs to be more awareness from players and referees to prevent incidents like this occurring in the future.

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