An Iranian female athlete has been allowed to attend professional volleyball matches in Belgium with hijab.
Local Belgian media said late Tuesday that Farnoush Sheikhi will represent her team Charleroi Volley in the first tier of the Belgian women volleyball league with hijab after the club reached an agreement with authorities in the Belgian volleyball federation on the issue.
Sheikhi had joined Charleroi, a club whose football outfit also features her husband Kaveh Rezayi, on the conditions that she could play observing Islamic dress code. Charleroi officials finally managed to convince the Belgian authorities and received a permission to sign Sheikhi, said a report by La Nouvelle Gazette, a Belgian daily.
Earlier reports had suggested that Sheikhi would be barred from playing in Charleroi due to restrictive laws about hijab in the Belgian sport competitions.
Sheikhi had donned hijab when she played for Sarmayeh Bank VC in the Iranian volleyball league. The 27-year-old has been a member of Iran’s female volleyball team for the past nine years and played for the country in the 2012 Asian Women’s Cup Volleyball Championship.
Iranian users of the social media hailed Sheikhi’s decision to choose hijab as heroic and patriotic, saying she set an example for other Muslim sportswomen. Others said Sheikhi’s move was a huge blow to those campaigning against hijab for women in Iran.
Sheikhi and Charleroi would have a serious challenge this season both in domestic and European volleyball games. Charleroi defeated Barcelona from Spain in Europe’s Challenge Cup this week without the Iranian player in its roaster.
Rezayi, Sheikhi’s husband, an Iranian national football player, currently tops the Belgian football league’s table of goal scorers, finding the net for Charleroi nine times this season.
Charleroi Volley president Marc Wauters said signing Sheikhi would be a major boost to the club while it would help Rezayi to keep up with his goal-scoring run.
“She is on the same level as a Belgian player. It is an interesting reinforcement. It does not cost us anything. The transfer can also help Kaveh to be in shape,” Wauters said.