First Arab woman to officiate at Wimbeldon feared rejection because of hijab

Ahram Online , Saturday 4 Jul 2015

Wimbledon
Raindrops are seen on an umbrella at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, in London June 30, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)

Aseel Shaheen is the first Arab woman to officiate at Wimbeldon, the oldest tennis tournament in the world which is part of the famous Grand Slam contests. She was worried that wearing hijab could be a hindrance but her fears proved unfounded.

"It's an indescribable feeling being here. It's something big, it's a challenge. I'm the first female from the Arab world to be an umpire at Wimbledon," she said in an interview with Sport360.

"I was worried that they wouldn’t accept me because I wear a hijab but on the contrary, they really accepted me.

"London is quite open towards hijab, but maybe it's not too common around the tennis world. But me wearing the hijab and working on court during a tennis match at Wimbledon is a sign that the world is starting to accept us more."

Shaheen, a 41-year-old Kuwaiti umpire, took a tennis officiating course in 2002 and was determined to make it through to the upper echelons of the popular sport's officiating world.

"I had never known anything about tennis before then but I placed third in the course. So I kept going. It became a challenge for me because they would always nominate the guys and ignore me," she said.

"I told them I wanted to be an international umpire, I have the qualification and I have the language skills, because I speak good English. So I went to officiating school and I became a white badge in 2011."

Shaheen also officiated at the ATP and WTA events in Doha and had her her first experience at Wimbledon qualifying last year.

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