Bibiana Steinhaus will make history in Germany on Sunday when she becomes the first woman to referee a Bundesliga game.
The German football federation announced on Thursday that the 38-year-old police officer is to take charge of Hertha Berlin’s home game against Werder Bremen, confirming her place among the league’s elite group of 24 referees.
“She deserves it through her great performances,” Bremen coach Alexander Nouri said.
Hoffenheim’s Julian Nagelsmann added, “I’m happy. It’s all the same to me if a man or a woman is refereeing – the main thing is that they do the job well.”
Steinhaus has already spent a decade refereeing in Germany’s second division and she has plenty of experience with many of the country’s top stars from taking charge of German Cup games, too.
Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery has already showed she may be treated differently to her male colleagues when he played a trick on her during the side’s cup tie at Chemnitzer FC in August.
Ribery untied one of her bootlaces as he pretended to put the ball in place for a free kick. Steinhaus passed it off by giving Ribery a couple of playful punches in response, but it is debatable whether the French forward would have attempted the same trick had he been dealing with a male referee.
In her genes
The daughter of a ref, Steinhaus began by officiating women’s games for the DFB in 1999. Steinhaus then became a FIFA referee in 2005 and earned her place in the second division in 2007, as the first female ref in German professional football.
Steinhaus has handled women’s World Cups and European Championships, along with the 2012 Olympic women’s final between the United States and Japan. Last June, she took charge of the women’s Champions League final between Lyon and Paris Saint-Germain.
Male players have mostly treated Steinhaus with respect, but any incidents involving her receive greater attention.
Defender Peter Niemeyer, who was playing for Hertha at the time, accidentally swiped her breast when he meant to pat her on the shoulder during a game in 2010.
In 2015, after Steinhaus sent off Kerem Demirbay, the then-Fortuna Duesseldorf midfielder reportedly told her: “Women have no place in men’s football.”
Demirbay was roundly criticized for the remark and handed a three-game ban with two further games suspended. Duesseldorf also made Demirbay referee a girls’ game to ensure he understood the message.
Demirbay apologized both publicly and to Steinhaus directly for his comment, and said he was “very happy that she accepted my apology.”
The two will likely meet again this season if Steinhaus takes charge of any games involving his current club, Hoffenheim.