A boys soccer team from ISNA Private Islamic High School in Canada's Brampton refused to finish a tournament match on Tuesday, since the opposite team had two female players.
The opposing team, Robert F. Hall Catholic School of Caledon, has no girls soccer team. In such cases where there are a lack of alternatives for girls, the Region of Peel Secondary School Athletic Association (ROPSSAA) has ruled girls can play on boys teams, reports the Canadian CityNews.
The issue arose during halftime, when the Muslim team was losing by a margin of 3-1. The team approached the referee and said they would not continue playing against a team with girls on it.
Robert F. Hall Catholic School's two female players told CityNews that they chose to sit out the second half to ensure the game would not be stopped – their team ended up crushing the ISNA High School by 6-1.
However, both teams are advancing to the next round, and could potentially square off on the soccer pitch again on Monday. ROPSSAA is investigating the situation and intends to issue a ruling on the case Friday.
Responding to the ISNA team's position, Bruce Campbell of the Catholic School Board said the board is disappointed, and that they expect all teams participating in the tournament to be aware of the rules allowing girls to play at schools that have no girls team.
Essa Abdool-Karim, coach of the ISNA soccer team, tried to explain the refusal not to play despite ROPSSAA's rules.
"We were a little bit caught off guard because we assumed it was a senior boys league and exclusively for boys," said Abdool-Karim. "Free mixing is generally something we do not do, more so out of respect than anything."
He added, "we want them to understand this balance between religion and having to sacrifice the sport you love is a difficult situation."
If ISNA is matched against the Catholic team again, Abdool-Karim said his team would not play them.
"We want inclusion for all. We are trying to find a solution to a problem," said the coach.