Berlin (AFP) – Germany’s Bibiana Steinhaus made history on Sunday as the first female referee to officiate a match in a top European league by taking charge of Hertha Berlin’s 1-1 draw with Werder Bremen.
Steinhaus became the first woman to referee a top-tier match in the German, English, French, Italian or Spanish leagues when she oversaw the Bundesliga encounter in Berlin.
The 38-year-old had built up a wealth of experience by refereeing 80 second-division games since 2007 and was the fourth official on numerous occasions in the Bundesliga, but this was her refereeing debut in the top flight.
“I’ll be delighted when normality returns as of tomorrow,” said Steinhaus after a busy week amidst intense media attention.
“The crucial thing for us is not to be the focus after 90 minutes, which is what we achieved and we’re happy” she added, speaking on behalf of her refereeing team.
To mark the occasion, Hertha offered half-price tickets to female supporters who wanted to see Steinhaus in charge.
She kept tight control at the Olympic Stadium and fulfilled her pre-match wish that her performance would not attract headlines for the wrong reasons.
Stainhaus got a thumbs up from the president of the German Football Association (DFB).
“She was under unbelievable pressure, yet was poised for all the important situations and made the right decisions, that was a confident display,” enthused DFB boss Reinhard Grindel.
“You could see that she has unbelievable experience.”
Steinhaus smartly allowed play to continue when Australia’s Mathew Leckie scored for the hosts after 38 minutes despite a foul on Hertha’s Vladimir Darida in the build-up.
Leckie now has three goals in as many league games this season after his arrival from Ingolstadt.
“I can only praise Bibiana Steinhaus, especially for the scenes around the first goal, when she let the advantage play on,” said Berlin coach Pal Dardai.
“That speaks for her experience.
“Much respect – she let a lot of things go, even though it was a physically-intensive game. I am very happy.”
– Bremen off the mark –
Steinhaus then turned down Hertha midfielder Valentin Stocker’s appeal for a penalty on 76 minutes, which replays showed was the right decision but one that earned her whistles from the disgruntled home crowd.
Bremen earned a point in Berlin, their first of the campaign, when captain Thomas Delaney smashed the ball home on 59 minutes after forcing his way through the Hertha defence.
Steinhaus’ performance was also met with approval from Bremen coach Alexander Nouri, whose side remain in the bottom three.
“As I said before the game, the sex of the referee doesn’t matter, only the performance and it was okay today,” said the Werder boss.
Her partner, Englishman Howard Webb, the referee for the 2010 World Cup final, was in the German capital to watch Steinhaus take charge.
Named on the official list of Bundesliga referees for 2017/18, Steinhaus sat out the first two rounds of German league matches before making her top-tier debut on Sunday.
Steinhaus has been refereeing since 2007 and officiated the women’s Champions League final this year as well as the women’s 2012 Olympic Games final in London.