Karla Borger, Julia Sood boycott volleyball program over bikini ban

Germany’s volleyball stars Carla Borger and Julia Sood have said they will boycott a tournament in Qatar next month as it was the “only country” where players were prohibited from wearing bikinis on the court.

Female players have been asked to wear shirts and long trousers instead of the usual bikini, a rule that the World Beach Volleyball Federation FIVB claims is “out of respect for the culture and traditions of the host country”.

“We’re there to do our work, but are being prevented from wearing our work clothes,” Borger told radio station Deutschlandfunk on Sunday.

“It’s really the only country and the only tournament where a government tells us how to do our job – we’re criticizing it.”

The Qatar Volleyball Association reacted to the news, stating that they are “committed to ensuring that all athletes are made to feel welcome and comfortable at next month’s event.” He said that all athletes were free to compete in their international uniforms. “We want to make it clear that we are not making any demands on what athletes should wear to the event,” a statement asserted.

Julia Sood (left) and Carla Borger on 30 June 2019
Julia Sood (left) and Carla Borger on 30 June 2019
Bongaarts / Getty Images

Qatar is hosting the upcoming FIVB World Tour event, but strict rules about on-court clothing have accelerated the event by World Championship silver medalist Borger and his doubles partner Sood.

The tournament, to be held in March, is the first time Doha has hosted a women’s world tour event, although the city has been a regular fixture on men’s tour for over seven years.

In a decision supported by the German volleyball federation DVV, Borger and Sude told Spiegel magazine during the weekend that they would not go with “rules imposed by Qatari authorities”.

Borger said they would normally be happy to be “friendly to any country”, but the extreme heat in Doha meant that a bikini was necessary.

Her teammate Sood said that Qatar had previously made exceptions for women track and field athletes at the World Athletics Championships in Doha in 2019.

The country allowed women beach volleyball players to compete in bikinis at the ANOC World Beach Games in 2019.

Although not as hot as the scorching summer months, temperatures in the Gulf state can reach 85 degrees in March.

Speaking to Deutschlandfunk on Sunday, Borger questioned whether Qatar was a suitable host nation.

“We are asking if it is necessary to hold a tournament there,” she said.

Qatar has hosted a number of major sporting events in recent decades, though its human rights record, lack of sporting history and brutally hot weather make it a controversial venue.

Heat and humidity were major issues during the road race at the World Athletics Championships held in Doha last year.

Discriminatory labor practices and alleged human rights abuses in Qatar have been the subject of intense scrutiny ahead of next year’s Football World Cup.

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