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Australia: The first AFL umpire to wear a hijab, schoolgirl makes history before thousands of fans PDF Print E-mail

Melbourne ~ August 8 2013

The whistle and the hijab - an AFL first
Deborah Gough/Reporter for The Age
When 13-year-old schoolgirl Soreti Jibrael ran onto the ground at Etihad Stadium last Friday night for Auskick, it was her first AFL game - and it was also a first for the AFL. She was the first umpire to wear a hijab on an elite AFL ground.

Soreti adapted the umpire's uniform of shorts and T-shirt to fit her Muslim beliefs, borrowing a fluorescent green hijab from her sister to match the green shirts and socks worn by umpires.

Like any teenager, she was happy her accessory had ''sparkle on the ends''.
Soreti Jibrael. (Justin McManus)

To cover her legs she wore brown leggings under her shorts and green socks.

Born in New Zealand to Ethiopian migrants, the Cats fan joined her friend, Kangaroos supporter Tamara Auld, as an Auskick field umpire. They had chosen that game to see their teams play each other. It was the first time Soreti had watched a big league game live.

Soreti attends Point Cook P-9 College, where 25 students are part of the AFL Victoria Basic Umpiring Course, designed to promote leadership, decision-making and the role of umpires to a new generation.

''My dad said you should always improve your chances of winning the game [of life],'' Soreti says. ''When you learn to be an umpire, it is a great opportunity to get out of your comfort zone.''

Umpiring is Soreti's ''back-up plan'' for a career. ''I want to be a doctor. But if I don't become a doctor, I would like to be an umpire,'' she says.

Her debut at Etihad has been welcomed by another female Muslim umpire, Nadine Rabah, an AFL multicultural ambassador.

''It is just gorgeous that it has happened,'' Ms Rabah says.

A best-and-fairest player in her junior league days, Ms Rabah does not wear a hijab when she umpires reserves games in the Essendon District Football League.

She has never been abused as an umpire but says that wearing a hijab could make abuse more likely. However, she is encouraging Soreti to continue umpiring as she believes Australia is becoming more accepting of other cultures.
8 August 2013

First woman to umpire AFL game wearing a hijab

A Melbourne schoolgirl has made her debut as the first umpire to wear a hijab on an elite AFL ground, in a move which is hoped to encourage greater diversity in the code.
Source: Naomi Selvaratnam, SBS

Soreti Jibrael made history over the weekend when she stepped onto Etihad stadium to umpire an Auskick match wearing a hijab.

But being a pace-setter can bring a few nerves.

Everybody was just staring down at you, so you feel like what would they say if they saw a Muslim girl,” says Ms Jibrael.

“I was sort of proud at the same time.”

The 13 year-old started umpiring earlier this year - after taking a course through the AFL.

And while her father, Omar Osman is proud, he is still warming to the code.

“She is the first one to umpire with hijab, Muslim girl to umpire, I was surprised,” he says.

“Because I don't know much about the football because footy's not my favourite, my favourite is soccer.”

Even though she is the first umpire to wear a hijab on AFL ground, for Soreti, it's just about the love of the game. And the AFL hopes it will encourage more diversity in the code.

National Development Manager at the AFL, Josh Vanderloo says Ms Jibrael will help other young women to take up umpiring.

“She's a shining light now for other people just like her, she's there to promote umpiring and to promote her own culture,” he says.

“And we think Australian football's a great game that anybody can play, coach and get involved in.”

Meanwhile, Ms Jibrael hopes she will inspire more Muslim women to take up the challenge.

“Wearing a hijab or being a Muslim doesn't discriminate you from playing AFL or umpiring,” she says.