Originally from Somalia, Roble came to England as an refugee.
“Who would ever think a black, Somali-born immigrant girl with eight siblings could ref a men’s game in England with a hijab on?” wondered Jawahir Roble after reflecting on her journey right from the rags till the riches.
Jawahir Roble, or JJ, as she is fondly referred to by her family, is the first Muslim, black, female, hijab-wearing referee in the UK. But the way to the eminence wasn’t as easy for the Somali-born British woman. In fact, it was as hard as it could get given the race, the colour of her skin and the gender of her in the patriarchal society.
As aforesaid, JJ was born in Somali. But the civil war that broke into her childhood country had her family leave their home and their homeland and come to England as refugees. In an interview with the BBC, JJ recollected those days of her early childhood by saying, “My whole family, we lived in Somalia, and a civil war broke out. And my family were forced to leave their home, forced to flee the country and come to England and start afresh.”
Regarded as the most remarkable referee from England, JJ was a football-mad lover ever since her childhood. And for the football fanatic, having to live under the roofs of Wembley was a blessing a disguise. But she had her fair share of troubles with her parents when it came to working in the sport full-time.
Reliving the days, she opened up and said, “As a football fanatic, to find out that your first home in England is going to be Wembley, it was just a dream.”
“My parents, they were not okay with me playing football because I’m a girl first of all, and I should not be playing football. I should not be running around. I was hiding my football boots when I come home. I’d make sure that I put my normal clothes quickly,” she added.
But when JJ had finally enough of the hiding, she came out with the truth, and her plans for the future to convince her family. She goes on to explain how she kick-started her journey. “The lying had to stop, and I had to say: I want to become a referee, and I want to take my football seriously. And they’re like: You’re stubborn, JJ. Go ahead, go for it.”
Her family wasn’t the only ones to be convinced. She also had to convince all those who doubted whether a female could referee a men’s game. And among those doubters, the players were the ones with whom she had to deal the most.
“Being a woman in football, you’ve already broken some rules, in some guy’s heads. So when I first started refereeing, the kind of looks that I got, players were like very shocked, surprised to see me,” JJ said.
JJ, a role-model already for many women in her country, isn’t ready to stop her rise yet. She now has aimed to referee in the Women’s Super League. Talking about her future aspirations, she said, “My endgame would be to referee in the Women’s Super League if I’m fortunate enough. We want to have England ladies to be the best in the whole world and that can be done if it starts from the bottom up.”
The Somali-British believes that her story is just the start of something really big for the women in the game. She opined, “We can make it happen, yes I swear. It’s just starting it and it’s inspiring people.”
To watch the interview, click here.