Aged 32, the young Egyptian basketball referee, Sarah Gamal, will discover the Olympic Games, this summer, in Tokyo where she will be one of the few officials of the Arab world and Africa. An important event in her career …
Passionated by basketball since childhood …
A civil engineer by training and a resident of Alexandria, Egypt, Sarah Gamal began playing basketball at age five.
After coaching her older sister, she switched to refereeing at the age of sixteen due to her great passion for the sport but also her desire to learn more about the rules surrounding this discipline, while continuing to devote herself to her engineering studies.
“My family has always supported me“, insists this passionate person, who specifies that her relatives are happy about her selection for the Olympic Games: “It is a great reward for all the sweat and tears” endured these last years.
When asked about the pressure of representing her country, the Arab world and Africa on the international scene, she was relaxed and proudly said: “Being the first Arab and African woman refereeing 3×3 at the Olympics is positive. There is no pressure on me and I am confident that this will pave the way for other Arab and African women referees”.
… a new Olympic challenge awaits the young referee
Sarah Gamal has a solid experience as an international referee. Passionate about basketball since childhood, she has already officiated games at the African Women’s Championship in 2017 as well as the 2018 Women’s Under-17 World Cup in Belarus.
“For me, the veil is normal and not a problem” she says, saying she feels ready for the new challenge ahead: refereeing the Olympic Games in Japan next summer. “Since the beginning of my refereeing experience, I haven’t heard a single negative comment or encountered any obstacles because of my veil” she continues.
In 2017, the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) actually changed its rules to allow the hijab under certain conditions, a proof that wearing the veil should not be an obstacle in order to participate in events of this magnitude.
And Sarah’s ambition does not stop there! “I want to referee during the men’s and women’s World Cups and maintain the confidence that the international authorities have put in me so far“, she concludes.
From July 23 to August 8, Sarah Gamal will referee the 3X3 basketball tournament, a sport that pits two teams of three players against each other on a half court. To date, and in this discipline, only the Moroccan Chahinaz Boussetta has represented the Arab world as a referee at the Olympic Games in Rio, in 2016.