From Refugee to Referee – Meet the first hijab-wearing referee in the UK

From Refugee to Referee – Meet the first hijab-wearing referee in the UK

In 2004, JJ Roble’s and her family fled Somalia and ended up living in the shadow of Wembley Stadium. She’s now the first black, female, Muslim, hijab-wearing referee in the UK.

Roble’s aim is to inspire more women into playing football.


Jawahir Roble grew up in North-West London with her parents and eight siblings. She said, “We always played football in the garden, in the house, outside, everywhere”.


A promising schoolgirl player, she first took up a whistle when she was undertaking her coaching badges in her teens. Initially it was on an informal basis: taking charge of junior matches.


And immediately she did so, she came to appreciate that this was not a pursuit for the faint-hearted as she was racially abused, she reported the abuse to the local FA, but did not hear any more.


But didn’t stop her passion or drive, instead of quitting she decided to qualify properly as a referee.


“My dad said to me from when I started: be careful, there’ll be haters out there,” she says. “But I see myself as a strong person. If someone says something to me I don’t get emotional. I just think they’re ignorant.”


In 2014, aged 19, she became more serious about how to encourage Muslim girls to play football. She said, “Of course they’re surprised to see a Muslim girl refereeing! I’m kind of short as well so they’re like ‘okay, what is this child doing here”


In 2017, she was one of eleven award winners at the Respect Awards, and collected the Match Official prize. Roble award was in recognition of her volunteering work for the education charity Football Beyond Borders (FFB).


The thing Jawahir Jewels always enjoys is the moment it dawns on the players involved that she will be refereeing their game.


If it seems astonishing that somebody who already faces sizeable openings to prejudice would wish to embrace a calling which is routinely subject to abuse and violence, JJ says she loves everything about being a referee.


“It’s brilliant,” she says. “It’s such fun, Can’t get enough of it, being involved in the game I love.”

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