Nouhaila Benzina: Morocco defender becomes first player to wear hijab at World Cup

Nouhaila Benzina: Morocco defender becomes first player to wear hijab at World Cup

Morocco produced a shock by beating South Korea in their second World Cup game – Reuters/Hannah McKay

Morocco defender Nouhaila Benzina became the first footballer to wear a hijab during a World Cup game as she helped her team beat South Korea on Sunday.

Since 2014, when Fifa’s previous ban on players wearing religious head coverings on health and safety grounds was overturned, wearing a hijab has been permitted, and the 25-year-old is the first to do so at any global senior Fifa tournament.

Benzina had been an unused substitute during Morocco’s opening 6-0 loss to Germany in Group H of the tournament Down Under, but she started Sunday’s game against South Korea in Adelaide.

Morocco, the first Arab or North African nation to qualify for a Women’s World Cup, won the game 1-0 in a shock result, beating a South Korea side who are ranked 55 places higher than them in the world rankings. Ibtissam Jraidi scored the game’s only goal, and Morocco’s first in the tournament’s history. It was a game with just two shots on target at the Hindmarsh Stadium – South Korea failing to produce one – and Morocco took their moment to make history in more ways than one.

“We are honoured to be the first Arab country to take part in the Women’s World Cup [and] we feel that we have to shoulder a big responsibility to give a good image, to show the achievements the Moroccan team has made,” Morocco skipper Ghizlane Chebbak said prior to the tournament.

Nouhaila Benzina: Morocco defender becomes first player to wear hijab at World Cup

Nouhaila Benzina was visibly emotional after the match – Reuters/Hannah Mckay

Benzina plays her domestic club football in Morocco for the Association’s Sports of Forces Armed Royal team, with whom she has won seven national league titles. She also helped Morocco reach the final of the 2022 Women’s African Nations competition.

Her team now hold a real chance of progressing to the knockout stages of the World Cup, meeting Colombia in a crucial game on Thursday at Perth’s Rectangular Stadium.

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