The fearless Jawahir Roble referees at Dulwich Hamlet’s ground.

Jawahir Roble says it starts with the groundsmen. “They just have this face,” she says, laughing. “It starts when I ask where the changing room is.”

Roble, known as “JJ”, is the first female Muslim referee in the UK. She is wearing a black hijab and a bright blue Nike sweatshirt when she appears on our video call and mimes the kind of gawping stare she is greeted with when arriving at a new ground for the first time. “They’re still looking at me. I’m like, ‘I’m your referee, don’t worry, I’ve got this.’” The 26-year-old is graciously sympathetic to the undisguised surprise she receives on a regular basis. “I’m so different to what a normal referee looks like. But I’m there to surprise them, so who cares?”

Start your free trial to read the full story

Subscribe to Air Mail to access every article
and search our entire Arts Intel Report.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here.