AP, May 5, 2007
A soccer game between Muslim imams and Christian priests at the end of a conference to promote interfaith dialogue was canceled Saturday because the teams could not agree on whether women priests should take part.
Church of Norway spokesman Olav Fykse Tveit said the imams refused to play against a mixed-gender team of priests because it would have gone against their beliefs in avoiding close physical contact with strange women.
The church decided to drop its female players and the priests’ team captain walked out in protest.
Hours before the game was to end the daylong “Shoulder to Shoulder” conference in Oslo, the church released a statement saying it had called off the match because it was sending the wrong signal.
“Because we thought it would be a nice conclusion of the conference we didn’t want to call it off, so we decided to stage an all-mens team game instead,” Tveit said. “We realize now that it will be wrong to have a priest team without women.”