A report on Bibiana Steinhaus, the first female referee in men's top flight football.
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Now it's a difficult perhaps impossible job at the best of times. Twenty-two players who all think you're biased against them and potentially thousands of fans who probably hate your guts and blame you personally for their team's defeat. Oh yes and all this while running a half marathon. I’m talking of course about the job of being a football referee. Well imagine being the only woman referee in topflight football, topflight men's football that is. Bibiana Steinhaus is that person and earlier this year she became the first woman to referee a match in Germany's Bundesliga, one of Europe's top competitions. My colleague James Menendez caught up with Bibiana Steinhaus and began by asking her what made her want to become a referee.
Actually I didn't want to become a referee really. I was playing soccer for a few years which was, to be fair, not very successful. Then I was kind of dragged into refereeing. My dad is a referee as well. So it wasn't really on purpose. It was more by chance. But from today's perspective, definitely one of my best decisions in life.
And so tell us then, what was it like that first Bundesliga match when clearly there was so much attention on you because of the novelty plus the fact that it was your first Bundesliga match. Tell us about the lead up to that. How nervous were you?
The media interest in the first Bundesliga match was, I would say, ginormous. It was intense, and the buildup made it like kind of a huge mountain, like going on a mountain. And my goal was not to focus on the media too much, just to ignore that little bit and to focus and concentrate on my work on the football pitch. To be fair, the pressure was huge when I walked on that pitch where the president of our football federation was in the stands, where the media was all over, where ????? had been sold like Bibiana Steinhaus tickets were female supporters could get into the stadium for half price and stuff like this. It was a lot of pressure, but the relief after the game was superb. Like we were so happy that it went well and there were no big discussions at all. Actually, the second game was even better on that note that it was no headline before the game started. Nobody was interested after the game that a female official had done this job. It was totally under the radar, and that's how I wanted it to be.
How do you deal with, and it must have happened certainly, in all those lower league matches you must have refereed and perhaps in the Bundesliga, but how do you deal with sexism whether it's on the pitch or off the pitch?
I don’t have any experiences with sexism in football from my perspective.
Your day job is as a police officer. I read that you weren't able to go on patrol on the streets because you're so well known. Is that true?
It is true. Like every aspect on the street just takes a little bit longer because people want to discuss like offside situations, offside calls, stuff like this. So I can't do that very much at the moment.
Bibiana Steinhaus describing what it's like being the only woman referee in European topflight men's football.