Canada’s Sikh hockey players to don turbans at Olympic ceremony

August 7th, 2008 - 9:58 am ICT by IANS  

Toronto, Aug 7 (IANS) Four Sikh players in the Canadian hockey team and their assistant coach will don red turbans at the Olympic opening ceremony Friday. Though the players - Ravi Kahlon, Bindi Kullar, Gabbar Singh and Ranjeev Deol - don’t wear turban in their daily life, they said they want to don it at the world stage to highlight their Sikh religious symbol, reported Canada’s Canwest wire service.

Assistant coach Nicki Sandhu said he too will join the four players in wearing the turban on the occasion.

However, two other Goan-origin players - Wayne Fernandes and Ken Pereira - and chief coach Louis Mendonca will not wear turbans at the ceremony.

Forward Ravi Kahlon said they want to challenge the identity issue by wearing turbans at the opening ceremony.

“I want to show that you can wear a turban and still be Canadian,” Kahlon said. “When some of them first heard about this, a few said, ‘This is the Canadian team, not the Indian team’.”

But a turban is a Sikh religious symbol and in no way an Indian national symbol, Kahlon said.

“This is no different than wearing a cross on your chest or a Jewish yarmulke during the opening ceremonies, which nobody would have any problem with,” the Indian-origin player said.

“We’re a country of immigrants and this is a celebration of Canada and the fact that in our country, you can be anything you want to be,” he added.

He said he was born to Indian-origin parents who went through the immigrant experience. “My dad had to cut his beard and lose his turban to get a job when he came to Canada in 1970. Now we can choose to wear a turban or not and it doesn’t affect anybody making a living. Now we can celebrate that evolution of our country.

“During the opening ceremonies, I want people to think about Canadians coming in all kinds of packages, and yet we’re all still Canadians.”

It’s that part of Canada, he said, he has chosen to celebrate when marching into the massive Bird’s Nest Stadium Friday behind Canadian flag-bearer Adam van Koeverden Friday.

Team captain Rob Short, who learnt hockey with Kahlon in the city of Victoria, said he supported his Sikh players’ decision to wear turban at the opening ceremony.

Short said: “The Sikh community in British Columbia has been very good to us - it raised $15,000 in one weekend to help in our preparations for Beijing - and as captain, I have no problem with this (turbans in the opening ceremonies).”

“We all bring something of our backgrounds to our national team and as Canadians at the Olympics. This is a part of who Ravi, Bindi, Ranjeev and Gabbar are. My parents are English and that’s why I came to play field hockey and not ice hockey,” the captain said.

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