Iman Khalil was just another girl taking the soccer field Sunday, running alongside teammates and keeping a close eye on the ball. Occasionally, the 15-year-old tucked the back of her white head scarf into her red and white jersey.

A day earlier, teammates, parents and even members of an opposing team had lobbied a referee to let Khalil play after he ruled the Muslim girl’s head scarf violated league rules.

She took the field Sunday in the Hernando Heat’s 1-0 loss to the South Hillsborough Soccer League Celtics. A different referee allowed Khalil to play wearing her head scarf, and league officials showed up with policies that showed she should have been able to play Saturday.

“Unfortunately, sometimes they [referees] stick too far to the letter of the rule and allow no leeway,” said Mike Gann, a vice president with the United Soccer Association.

Her mother, Lisa Allen-Khalil, said she was happy the controversy was over, so her daughter could rejoin the Heat, an under-16 girls squad.

“We’re here for the team,” Allen-Khalil said, watching the game from the shade of Putnam Park’s concession stand. “It’s not just about her.”

During Saturday’s game against the Zephyrhills Bulldogs, though, the spotlight fell squarely on Khalil after referee Steve Richardson forced her to sit out. (MORE)


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