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‘Some people were afraid of me because of my voice!’ Umpire Kader ‘Barry White’ Nouni on being the most distinctive official in tennis
The umpire has spoken to French media about having the most famous voice in tennis
French umpire Kader Nouni – who marks his 30th year officiating at Roland-Garros this year – has the most distinctive voice in the sport. The French media even nickname him “Barry White” because of the depth of his tone. But he’s admitted in an interview for the French version of Eurosport that sometimes, people have been scared of him because of that voice.
“There were some umpires who were afraid of me because of my voice,” he told Eurosport France. “A referee is normally discreet, you don’t hear him, you don’t see him. Unfortunately, between my Jackson Five hairstyle and my deep voice, I didn’t manage that! It was a bit out of place, so it can be an advantage, when you use it well.
Between my Jackson Five hairstyle and my deep voice, I didn’t manage that! It was a bit out of placeKader Nouni
“But at the beginning, it was a bit scary because people recognised me when I hadn’t done anything. It could also be embarrassing when I was with great referees and I was asked to take a photo – it made me feel very uncomfortable compared to my colleagues. Afterwards, they also made fun of me a bit because of that, but it was always courteous and good-natured.”
Nouni: I’ve proven myself now
Nouni, who spends most of his time on the WTA Tour, says it’s less of a problem these days since he’s got an established umpiring track record.
“Today, I experience it differently because I have proven myself,” he added. “I can accept all that. When you haven’t done anything, when you are recognised and told that you are a good referee just because of your voice, it didn’t suit me. I would have preferred it if they had said, ‘He is a good referee and he has a nice voice’ – that was the most important thing for me.”
He also shared a funny story from his teenage years – showing that his famous voice is no umpiring affectation.
“When I was 17, there was no mobile phone, I called a friend at home, her father answered and the next day she told me, ‘Kader, my father didn’t want to believe me when I said you were my age, he thought you were 30 years old!'”