With a headscarf draped over her hair, Kuwaiti line umpire Aseel Shaheen stands out from the rest of the officials at Wimbledon. After four years of officiating in tennis, Shaheen is making waves at the All England Club this year, having become the first Arab woman to officiate in the tournament.
A former swimmer and coach, Aseel Shaheen attended a course on tennis, officiating in 2002. Speaking to Sport 360, she admits she wasn't aware of "anything about tennis" before taking the course. After finishing third in her class, the idea of becoming an international umpire appealed to Shaheen. Following up on her early success, she soon enrolled into an officiating school. However, it wasn't until 2011 that she got her White Badge, the second level of officiating, recognised by the International Tennis Federation (ITF). Over the next few years, Shaheen officiated in many Futures and Challengers, lower-rung tennis tournaments, as a chair or line umpire.
Last year, Shaheen gained experience of working in the Wimbledon qualifiers. She returned for the qualifying rounds this year, and after some glowing evaluation of her work, she was selected to officiate in the main round of the tournament. The selection comes as a major boost to Shaheen's officiating career, as she aims to complete her Bronze Badge in the near future, which will allow her to officiate as a chair umpire in international events.
"It's an indescribable feeling being here," said Shaheen, speaking about her experience at Wimbledon so far. "I was worried that they wouldn't accept me because I wear a hijab but on the contrary, they really accepted me," she said. Having become the first woman from the Gulf to officiate at Wimbledon, she now looks forward to adding more experience to her CV.