Berlin (AFP) – A 38-year-old German policewoman will next season become the first female referee in Europe’s top leagues after she was promoted to officiate in the Bundesliga on Friday.
Bibiana Steinhaus has previously been a fourth official for Bundesliga matches and although a German FA (DFB) referee since 1999, she knows the spotlight will be on her when she takes charge of a top-flight game.
“For every referee, whether a man or a woman, it is always a big goal to be able to whistle in the Bundesliga,” she told DFB.de.
Steinhaus, girlfriend of Englishman Howard Webb, 45, who refereed the 2010 World Cup final, said: “I have worked very hard for this in the last few years and suffered a few set-backs.
“I was quite speechless when I got the call. On one hand it was confirmation after all the hard work, but also a great incentive to keep working.
“Of course, I am aware that I will be the first female referee in the Bundesliga and will be closely watched by the media and the public,” she added, having refereed 80 second-division games since 2007.
“I am used to this pressure and am convinced I will find my feet quickly in the Bundesliga.
“I don’t seek out public attention and my colleagues know me well enough to know that.”
Her role as a police officer means Steinhaus is well used to giving clear instructions in a no-nonsense manner.
“My style during a game is characterised by intensive communication,” she said.
“I like to give an early indication of what I expect and set the players good guidelines.”
Steinhaus made headlines in October 2014 when then Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola put his arm around her shoulders, when she was the fourth official at a Bundesliga game, while arguing about a refereeing decision.
Steinhaus coolly brushed Guardiola’s arm off and the Spaniard was criticised in the German media for inappropriate conduct.
“After all, it was not just anyone but the star coach of FC Bayern,” said former world-class referee Urs Meier at the time.
And in December 2015 during a second-division game she sent off Kerem Demirbay for a second booking.
The then-Fortuna Duesseldorf midfielder was banned for five games for telling Steinhaus that “women have no place in men’s football” as he trudged off.
As a further punishment, his club made Demirbay, who now plays for Hoffenheim, referee a girl’s football match.
Steinhaus, who will referee the women’s Champions League final in Cardiff on June 1, is one of four officials who have been promoted to the list of Bundesliga referees for 2017/18.
She also refereed the 2011 women’s World Cup final and the women’s 2012 Olympic final in London.
DFB president Reinhard Grindel hopes Steinhaus will inspire girls to get involved in football.
“I’ve been following her path for many years and am very much looking forward to it,” he said.