The t-shirt one is just a stupid rule, since our college basketball team definitely had a guy who wore a t-shirt under his basketball jersey for non-religious reasons, and as long as the t-shirt is close fitting, it can’t possibly pose a safety issue.
But the poor Iranian soccer team! Women’s soccer is fascinating to me, not as a sport, but as a marker of success in a society. That the US Men’s Soccer team is somewhat considered a joke, and everybody is surprised if they win anything; but the US Women’s team is one of the best teams in the world and continually dominates other countries? That’s not a demonstration of our soccer prowess, it’s a demonstration of the status of women, and more importantly, women’s sports in the US. Without Title IX, our success in women’s sports wouldn’t be possible, and that’s not a realization other countries have come to. (I desperately want to do more research into this issue, since I find it fascinating.)
The other thing that bothers me is the “safety” concerns. Women all over the world play sports wearing headscarves, and although many have been banned for safety concerns, I could not find a single incident report in which a headscarf actually caused an injury. The commenter on this Daily Mail piece says that the headscarves could get twisted around the women’s necks, but if you look at the pictures, the head covering doesn’t go around their necks. The worst that could happen is the covering falls off on the soccer field. It also would fall off immediately if it was grabbed by another player – but female soccer players do not, to the best of my knowledge, engage in hair-pulling, so there is no reason to believe that they would engage in scarf-pulling either.
The thing about this that is kind of funny to me is that I play a sport in which wearing head coverings is totally encouraged. We wear helmets, and under our helmets we wear bandannas, beanies, headbands, or other coverings. (I myself am a huge fan of Bondi Bands.) However, it’s probably not that possible for the women of Iran to take up ice hockey because it allows them to cover their heads.
The ban is also on “religious dress”, which just seems bigoted to me. It seems to me like the officals are trying to punish the government and the women for being Muslim to force some kind of change. Ironically, if you encourage women’s sports and women’s empowerment, you do create change in the social structure and eventually the government. But FIFA doesn’t seem to care about that.