Amal Jamal is the first Emirati woman to officiate at a professional men's football game
She speaks with FIFA.com about the milestone and its significance
"This step shows society as a whole that women are capable of officiating men's games"
23 April 2021 was no ordinary day for Amal Jamal or Emirati football. The assistant referee made history by becoming the first Emirati woman to officiate at a professional men’s football game. On the final day of this year’s UAE U-21 Championship, better known as the U-21 Arabian Gulf League, Jamal was part of the refereeing team for the clash between Al Ahly and Al Nasr. It was just the latest milestone in her impressive refereeing career, which has also seen her officiate in the United Arab Emirates’ top flight. "It was definitely a challenge for me, as I was the first female Emirati referee to be approved for the U-21 Arabian Gulf League and the UAE’s top flight," Jamal, who was recently named on FIFA's list of international referees for the second year in a row, told FIFA.com. "This step shows society as a whole that women are capable of officiating men's games, and that there’s no difference between referees in matters technical or physical. "The Refereeing Committee at the UAE Football Federation showed they have full confidence in me by appointing me second assistant referee on the final day of the U-21 Arabian Gulf League. They consider me capable of officiating those types of games."
Appointing Jamal to the refereeing team for a professional men's game was an extraordinary step by the Emirati federation, which continues to develop the game through numerous initiatives that promote equality in its society. "There’s no doubt that refereeing men's games is very different from refereeing women's ones in terms of the level, intensity and speed of play," she said. "That said, there are numerous challenges and difficulties in both versions." For her part, Amal Bou Shalakh, a member of the Emirati federation's board of directors and chair of the Women's Football Committee, praised Jamal's pioneering efforts and said it would mark the beginning of increased participation of women referees in men's games. "It was a positive step," Bou Shalakh told FIFA.com. "The Emirati community looked favourably on it, and it was praised by our federation's president, Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid. We have a cooperation plan with the professional league to involve women more next year." It should be said, however, that Jamal's journey to the UAE's refereeing elite was not an easy one. After playing at amateur level at university, she decided to switch to refereeing after being inspired by several of her current colleagues. "I started my career as a collegiate about three years ago, playing amateur football, but I wanted to try another facet of the sport," she said. "I was encouraged when I saw some of my colleagues from the world of refereeing taking charge of university games. "One day, my sister told me that the Emirati federation were running a refereeing course, so I decided to sign up. After much effort, I received my international accreditation two years in a row, in 2020 and 2021."
Women's World Cup dream Amal Jamal comes from a sporting family: her father was a player in his time, while her brother Mohamed Jamal is currently on the books of Al Ain. Unsurprisingly, when Amal became passionate about football, her family offered her their full support and encouragement. "As would be the case with any conservative Emirati family, I had to talk to them before I got into refereeing," she explained. "They accepted my decision and today are one of my biggest supporters. They never miss any games I referee and give me analysis, criticism and praise. "They’ve advised me to improve my physical condition, to do all I can to achieve my dream, and to always trust myself and my decisions," she said when asked what advice she had been given by her father and brother. "My dream is to go to the Women's World Cup. Nothing is impossible. I’ll do everything in my power to take part in that competition and represent my country through refereeing."