Faith, Soccer, School: Veiled Muslim Find Priorities in Life

CAIRO – For her Niles West soccer team in Skokie, Illinois, veiled Muslim goalkeeper Medina Skenderi is considered the last defense line, earning her spot with a modest uniform that respects her faith.

“It’s really important to me,” Skenderi told Chicago Tribune of her faith on Sunday, April 24.

“It’s like religion first and then soccer and then school.”

The young player joined Niles West as their goalie three years ago.

Choosing her position between the posts, her hijab easily fit with her long-sleeved jersey, gloves and pants.

“I like playing goalie because I feel like a responsibility to my team and to not let any goals in,” Skenderi said.

“I like being aggressive. I’ll do anything to get the ball.”

As a Muslim woman, she is required to cover everything except her face, hands and feet.

Her hijab, which covers her hair, is the only addition to the standard uniform.

“It gets hot, but I’m used to it now because I’ve been wearing it since I was little,” she said.

“I just learned to work with it in whatever I do.”

The uniform was never a problem for her coach, who praised his 5-foot-8 goalie who blocks high shots.

“She’s doing great,” Gorges said of the first-year varsity starter.

“She earned her spot. We’re still working with her to improve, but otherwise she’s been doing well in everything that I tell her to do.”

Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one’s affiliations.

Hijab has never posed a problem for veiled Muslim athletes.

Physical Olympic sports such as rugby and taekwondo allow Muslim women to wear the headscarf in competition.

In 2014, the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) revoked the imposed hijab ban during matches.

Offering a new hope for scores of veiled Muslim players, the world’s basketball body amended last September its rules to allow Islamic headscarf or hijab during official competitions on a trial basis, a decision welcomed by Muslim athletes.