VANTAA: Finland’s football association has begun offering a free “sports hijab” to any player who wants one, in a move designed to attract a greater diversity of players into the sport. So far, the FA has distributed “dozens” of the headscarves, which are made out of technical, stretchy fabric, Heidi Pihlaja, head of development of women and girls’ football, told AFP. “In Finland, it’s been really hard to get girls of immigrant backgrounds into football clubs,” Pihlaja said. “So we wanted to start this initiative to welcome everyone, regardless of your religion and whether you want to use a scarf or not.” “It doesn’t flap around as much as normal and you don’t need to tuck it into your shirt,” 13-year-old Nasro Bahnaan Hulbade told AFP during a training session at her club VJS in Vantaa, in the Finnish capital. “It’s easier to run in it,” said her teammate Kamila Nuh. The girls have been playing for one and two years respectively, but said they were “happy and grateful” to find out from their parents about the free headscarves. Pihlaja said that cultural issues and cost — rather than the headscarves themselves — were often the main obstacles to girls and women from immigrant communities taking up the sport. But offering the hijabs has “a symbolic importance” to making the sport more accessible, she said.