With her black veil stamped with the famous comma of an American sports equipment manufacturer, Sarah Gamal stands among the basketball players of Alexandria United Club, an important Egyptian club.
“Since the start of my refereeing experience, I haven’t heard a single negative comment or encountered any obstacles due to my veil,” she said.
Sarah Gamal already has extensive experience as an international referee: she led matches at the 2017 African Women’s Championship and the 2018 Under-17 Women’s World Cup in Belarus.
“The veil has not affected my work in any competition,” she adds, saying she is “ready” for the Olympics.
To date, in basketball, only Moroccan Chahinaz Boussetta has represented the Arab world as a referee at the Rio 2016 Olympics. The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) changed its regulations in 2017 to allow the wearing of the hijab (veil) under certain conditions.
In Tokyo (July 23-August 8), Sarah Gamal will referee matches in the 3X3 basketball tournament, a discipline between two teams of three players on a half-court, which will make its debut on the Olympic program.
– “Great passion” –
The civil engineer who lives in Alexandria is not afraid of having to play elbows in the middle of basketball players.
“I have refereed men’s matches in the past with success, which earned me the confidence of the Egyptian Referees Commission,” recalls the young woman.
After starting to play basketball at age five learning with her older sister, she switched to umpiring at age 16 because of her “great passion for a deep understanding of the rules”, while also devoting herself to her studies. engineer.
“It was difficult, because it’s a field of study that requires a lot of effort,” she admits.
“My family has always supported me”, insists Sarah Gamal, who specifies that her relatives are “happy with (his) selection (at the Olympics)”: “It is a great reward for all the sweat and tears” endured these last years.
Asked about the pressure that can be caused by representing her country, the Arab world and Africa on the international stage, she was relaxed.
“To be the first Arab and African woman to officiate 3×3 at the Olympics is positive. There is no pressure on me and I have confidence that it will pave the way for other Arab and African women referees,” she explains.
If nothing makes her “really scared”, Sarah Gamal is determined to “show the best” of herself in Tokyo.
In a time of the global coronavirus pandemic, her family is not worried about the long trip to Japan and their “enthusiastic support has not waned,” according to the 30-something.
And his ambition is not limited to the Olympics.
“I want to referee during the Men’s and Women’s World Cups and maintain the confidence that international bodies have placed in me so far,” concludes Sarah Gamal.