'Is this an imam school?': Turkey football chairman wants national beard ban for players

Ilhan Cavcav, chairman of Ankara-based football club Genclerbirligi, poses with Belgian Bjorn Vleminckx of Club Brugge during a signing ceremony in Ankara on January 4, 2013 (AFP Photo/Adem Altan)

The chairman of Genclerbirligi football club, Ilhan Cavcav, compared players with facial hair to Islamic school students.

“I'm 80 and I shave every day,” Cavcav told the country’s Dogan news agency. “Is this an imam school? You are a sportsman. You should be a model for the youth,” he added.

The club will fine any player with a beard 25,000 lira (US$11,200).

Cavcav has appealed to the chairman of the Turkish Football Federation to introduce a nationwide ban on the wearing of beards by footballers.

“He told me that they could not impose such a restriction because UEFA would not let them do it. I am fed up with this UEFA. I wish we had some other place to play our football,” Cavcac stated.

He also gave examples of footballers who he apparently believes are a detriment to the game on account of their beards – such as Slaven Bilic, the Croatian coach of Besiktas football team, and his midfielder Olcay Sahan.

Conversely, Turkey in general has been accused of imposing more Islamic policies over its population.

Cavcav’s comments about imam schools shortly follow a previous set of measures which permitted the wearing of Muslim headscarves in schools. Critics have denounced this as corrosive to Turkey’s secular ideals. In September, all school pupils nationwide were banned from having tattoos or body piercings.

Opponents and critics have said that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent moves constitute steps towards the Islamization of the country.

Erdogan himself has a thick moustache, but no beard.

Cavcav is not the first football manager to become vocal about the outward appearance of his players.

In 1998, Argentina manager Daniel Passarella refused to pick Real Madrid midfielder Fernando Redondo for his World Cup team until he cut his hair.