- Lebo Diseko
- BBC Global Religious Affairs Correspondent
6 hours ago
Sara Gamal has always had the habit of making great things in her life.
Now, the Egyptian civil engineer and the basketball referee who transformed from a player will make a history.
She will be the first Muslim woman in the Olympic Games to wear a headscarf as a referee in a basketball match.
Not only that, but the three-person basketball event she enforced is also an Olympic event for the first time. The three-person basketball game is considered to be the most popular urban sport in the world, born out of small basketball games in parks and amusement areas around the world. It also has some more familiar nicknames, such as “Streetball” (Streetball or Playground Ball), Playground Ball (Playground Ball) and so on.
It is estimated that more than 430,000 people in 182 countries are playing three-person basketball.
Sarah will also be the first Arab and African female referee in the Olympic three-player basketball event.
“Go All Out”
Sarah said that going to the Olympics is a dream for her.
The global epidemic once meant that this Olympic Games may not be able to be held in real terms.
“We are very worried about whether it will be held, but it will eventually be held.”
Sarah said that her family is full of pride for this, but she also knows that such a great achievement will be accompanied by high expectations.
“When you are not only representing yourself, but also representing (Africa and the Arab world), it is really a huge responsibility.”
“It’s not easy, but I want to be a good spokesperson for them, so I’m going all out.”
Sarah is a person with a soft tone and a friendly smile. A few hours before she accepted my interview, she had just returned to her hometown of Egypt. Before, she was a referee in a basketball game in Romania.
“Every time I accomplish something and think that it is the greatest achievement, Allah will surprise me and open up a new opportunity to do something more important than what I have done before,” she Tell me.
“Last season, I was nominated to enforce a semi-final in the Egyptian Men’s League. That is an achievement in itself.”
“These are huge improvements for me, and for other female referees in Egypt, because this is the first time a female referee in this country has come to enforce the men’s final.”
Although Sarah has achieved these successes in recent years, her journey to the Olympics has been very long.
It all started when she was a little girl. She watched her sister play basketball and followed her to training classes. Sarah started practicing basketball when she was only five years old. By the time she was 15 years old, she had already begun to be a referee.
For eight years, Sarah was both a player and a referee. She said that deciding to give up playing and concentrate on refereeing is one of her biggest challenges.
“When you are the one who does this, it is not easy-you have to have the courage to do it.”
“But when you believe something, you have to believe it. As long as you take a step, it will come true.”
Sarah is accustomed to balancing different roles at the same time. She is still a civil engineer and has studied this subject for five years while playing basketball.
It’s very challenging, she said, “but I have the support of my family, and they taught me to balance my time between two paths.”
Now, her work partners have also become her cheer group.
“They will watch my law enforcement games, and of course they will support me at the Olympics.”
The power of faith
In all these experiences, Sarah said that it was her faith that kept her feet on the ground.
“I believe that if I do my best in everything, I will be the best in return.”
“You must do everything you have to work hard, say’I did my best’, and then give it to Allah to lead your journey.”
Before each game, Allah is the object of her prayers.
“I prayed:’Allah, please help this to be a great game or event.'”
It was the same belief that led her to put on a headscarf on the court. Sarah is the first referee to wear a Muslim headscarf in international competitions after FIBA revised its regulations in 2017.
She said that the response from the outside world has been positive.
“Some players even said that my clothes are cool,” she said.
“I opened a way for more female referees to sincerely pursue their beliefs and dreams, which is very good for me.”
She said that the younger generation of female referees in her hometown often wrote to her, saying that they thought they “have no chance to go to a big game or travel the world.”
“I told them that you can do better than me. You can achieve all your goals wherever you want to go. You have the power to do it.”
“It is a great honor for them to consider their future as referees and see that if they work hard, they will realize their dreams.”
This is exactly the belief she hopes that young Muslim women from all over the world can gain from her when they see her on the sidelines in Tokyo.
“Put your focus on the best things, give yourself lofty goals, and then you can achieve the highest achievement.”
“I believe that we women have magical powers. We are very, very powerful.”