Bearded player forced to sidelines
DUSHANBE, Tajikistan -- A topflight soccer coach in Tajikistan says police have prevented him from using a player because he has a beard.
Khayr Vakhdat coach Tokhir Muminov said he had been unable to play Parviz Tursunov for the opening two games of the season while there were problems with the police over his appearance.
But the Interior Ministry denied issuing any order to ban bearded soccer players and said any officers caught intimidating citizens would be punished.
"While he settles this issue with his beard, his absence is having a negative effect on the team's performance," Muminov said.
Authorities in the mainly Muslim former Soviet nation have taken strict measures to stamp out any signs of religious extremism, with police reportedly sometimes rounding up bearded young men.
In January, about 30 bearded men were detained by police in one area of the capital, Dushanbe. An Interior Ministry spokesman later claimed police were trying to establish the men's identity as their appearance differed from that in their documents.
Tursunov, a devout Muslim, said he would rather give up soccer than his beard.
"Football is secular, but we should think about the eternal," Tursunov said.
Khayr Vakhdat has won both games despite Tursunov's absence after beating last-place Parvoz Bobojon Ghafurov 3-0 on Sunday.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press
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