Morocco’s Benzina Becomes First To Wear Hijab At World Cup

By Chidi Nwoke, Abuja.

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Morocco defender Nouhaila Benzina made history on Sunday by becoming the first player to wear a hijab at a FIFA Women’s World Cup during the Atlas Lionesses’ 1-0 victory against South Korea, at the Coopers Stadium in Adelaide, Australia.

The 25-year-old defender was an unused substitute for Morocco’s opening 6-0 defeat against Germany last week, but was selected in the starting lineup by manager Reynald Pedros for the crucial match in Adelaide.

The wearing of head coverings for religious reasons was authorised by FIFA in 2014 and Benzina wore a white Islamic headscarf (Hijab) as she played the entire match in the vital Group H clash. The victory kept alive Morocco’s hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages on their FIFA World Cup debut.

Morocco defender Nouhaila Benzina.

Benzina plays professional club soccer for the Association’s Sports of Forces Armed Royal, the eight-time defending champions in Morocco’s top women’s league.

The Atlas Lionesses played with more freedom in an afternoon game against South Korea, scoring in the 6th minute and hanging on for a 1-0 win.

Benzina played an important role in the defensive line for Morocco. She even took one for the team when she deliberately clipped Ji So-yun, who was racing through on goal during a dangerous counterattack. She picked up a yellow card for the team without any protest.

Morocco were dominant in the encounter and the only surprise was that the Atlas Lionesses did not add to their solitary goal.