Bibiana Steinhaus will become the first woman ever to officiate in the German top flight, after being named to the German federation’s list of referees for the 2017/18 Bundesliga season.
Bibiana Steinhaus to become the #Bundesliga's first female referee 👏
— Bundesliga English (@Bundesliga_EN) August 10, 2017
A chief inspector of the German police, Steinhaus has been refereeing matches in the 2. Bundesliga for a decade. She has also handled high profile matches in the Olympics and FIFA Women’s World Cup. It’s not hard to see why the 38-year-old has been promoted to the highest level of soccer in Germany.
Officiating her first Bayern Munich match earlier this month–an event that comes with media hype and glaring attention–Steinhaus was on the receiving end of a “prank” from French international Franck Ribery.
Franck Ribery pranks referee Bibiana Steinhaus before taking a freekick in DFB Cup Game. pic.twitter.com/ACowrGH08p
— TheGermanliness (@TheGermanliness) August 13, 2017
The official reaction to the incident was categorized as an innocent joke that highlighted the welcoming nature of the league. Several people on social media asked the glaring question, “would Ribery have pulled the same prank on a male referee?”
It’s become the norm to over analyze every single negative reaction Steinhaus has had on the field with players and managers. In 2010, a video of an on-field moment catching Hertha Berlin player, Peter Niemeyer, accidentally touching Steinhaus breast was headline news, making the front pages of every tabloid in the country.
In October 2014, current Manchester City manager, Pep Guardiola, then at Bayern Munich, was in a boisterous state as his Munich side were quickly nearing a draw with title contenders Borussia Monchengladbach. Attempting to earn his team favor, Guardiola proceeded to act wildly on the sidelines in the hopes of disrupting Steinhaus. Again, this was played off as just another instance of a passionate Guardiola.
The most public exhibition of intolerance came in 2015 after Steinhaus sent off Fortuna Dusseldorf player, Kerem Derimbay, after receiving his second yellow card. The 22-year-old told Steinhaus “women have no place in men’s football” after being sent off during a 2.Bundesliga game. Derimbay received a three match ban from the league, with two additional matches added for his remarks.
Speaking to a German publication, Steinhaus admitted to being surprised by the global attention paid to her promotion and the attempt to use her as a vehicle for equality in sport. “It was like a huge thunderstorm. Violent. I never got into refereeing in order to fight gender inequality but despite that I have to deal with it because there are people around me for whom this matters.”
Steinhaus wants the attention focused on her work, she added: “As for me I just do what I love doing and that is to referee football games.”