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The rise of Bibiana Steinhaus

Wednesday 23rd August 2017
Bibiana Steinhaus is set to make history. The Bundesliga appointing a female official clearly indicates gender equality is gaining more ground in the game.

Steinhaus has become a celebrity since the DFB referee commission announced her promotion to the German first division. It is especially noteworthy considering the same body placed a ban on women in the 1950s.
The 38-year-old from Bad Lauterberg in northern Germany is a trained police officer with the Hannover force. Known by many as Bibi, she was promoted alongside four other referees.

[Referees chief] Lutz Michael Frohlich and his team are in constant exchange with us referees. That's why I was not particularly surprised when he called me on Wednesday. When he informed me in our telephone call about the decision of the referee's commission, I was quite speechless.

It has always been my dream to referee in the Bundesliga. That this dream is to become true now naturally fills me with great joy. It is on the one hand confirmation for the hard work I've done to get here, on the other hand also great incentive to continue to work. I would hope that the current developments will also have a positive impact on newcomers [female referees], or those who want to become one.--DFB

Inspired by her father, also a match official, Steinhaus officiated her first match in 1995. She earned promotion to the women's Bundesliga in 1999. In 2001, she moved up the ladder to the women's regional league. FIFA recognition arrived in 2005, a spot in 2.Bundesliga in 2007.

During that time, Steinhaus has officiated women's World Cups and European Championships. She also refereed the gold medal match between the United States and Japan at the 2012 London Olympics in 2012. In June, she served as the fourth official in the women's Champions League final between Lyon and Paris Saint-Germain.
Her partner, former Premier League and World Cup referee Howard Webb, was “absolutely thrilled to bits” by Bibi's promotion. Webb told BBC he believes it would enhance the self-confidence of more women, enabling them to reach for the top positions in the game, and could cause the Premier League to consider allowing women take charge of matches.

We have some good female officials in England. More and more are coming through and if they have the ability it shouldn't make any difference if they are male or female.

Before Bibi's promotion, Silvia Neid, a retired player and coach with Germany's highly successful women's team, was the leading woman in German football. Martina Voss, coach for the Swiss women's national teamand seven-time national champion, once suggested there would come a time when a woman would take over as a Bundesliga coach. Now Steinhaus has broken through as an official.
It hasn't been easy. In 2014, she had a run-in with Pep Guardiola while serving as a fourth official. Frustrated with his team's struggles against Borussia Monchengladbach, the ex-Bayern boss placed an arm around her shoulders as he talked heatedly about a refereeing decision. She shrugged him off sternly without losing her focus on the game. Guardiola was almost given a touchline ban for the action as it is an offence to make physical contact with any official in the Bundesliga. Almost but not automatically, as it would usually be.

That was not the only time Steinhaus made headlines. In 2015, she sent off Fortuna Dusseldorf midfielder Kerem Demirbay for a second booking. The midfielder told her "women have no place in men's soccer" before storming off the pitch. This time, the DFB acted both forcefully and with creativity. After apologising, he was forced to officiate a young girl's football match.
Bibi's promotion is a milestone for football. It is of great importance that women are not overlooked in any capacity. I strongly hope this revolution does not escape the Premier League.
Adebayo Temitope

Temitope, an ardent soccer fan. I may be based in Lagos but I watch as much European football as I can. I've been writing about football for several years, before I joined IRIAW you may have seen my work on The Football Weeks. I'm also a keen music fan


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