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German Bundesliga

German makes history by becoming first woman to referee in top European soccer league

The 38-year-old takes charge of Hertha Berlin’s 1-1 draw with Werder Bremen

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 September, 2017, 12:54am
UPDATED : Monday, 11 September, 2017, 9:53am

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.

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 will have fulfilled her pre-match wish that her performance would not attract headlines, indicating that would mean “everything will have gone well”.

Australia’s Mathew Leckie scored for the hosts after 38 minutes as Steinhaus smartly allowed play to continue 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.”

Steinhaus then turned down Hertha midfielder Valentin Stocker’s appeal for a penalty on 76 minutes, which replays showed was the right decision, but 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 also got the thumbs up 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 OK today,” said the Werder boss.

Her partner, Englishman Howard Webb, who was 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.