Born: 24 March 1979 in Bad Lauterberg (Germany)
Height: 1 81m
Profession: Police officer
Sporting career: Footballer with SV Bad Lauterberg and the Niedersachsen police team. Since 1995: Referee. Since 1999: German football association referee (women’s league, men’s fourth division). Since 2001: Men’s third division. Since 2007: Men’s second division. Sporting highlights: Referee for the German Women’s Cup final in 2003. Personal honours: DFB female referee of the year 2007 and 2008. Steinhaus has refereed 62 matches in the men’s third division and seven in the second division.
Bibiana Steinhaus is the boss
A female referee who last year became the first woman to officiate in division two of the men’s league is attracting praise in Germany. Bibiana Steinhaus is the woman who could soon be refereeing first division matches.
Cameron Diaz and Cindy Crawford have already been on. So have Lionel Ritchie and Anna Netrebko. Oliver Kahn, too. A constant stream of international stars at the top of their game have taken a seat on German TV show host Thomas Gottschalk’s couch. When the producers of the show Wetten, dass… ? [Want to bet?] call, no one turns them down. Regular viewing figures of more than 10 million are a powerful incentive.
Last autumn, Bibiana Steinhaus was also invited to appear on the most successful Saturday night show in the German-speaking world. But she declined. Because, after all, what did she have to boast about compared to the stars that regularly appear on Gottschalk’s show? She had only refereed a second division match.
But the Paderborn-Hoffenheim match, a seemingly unremarkable fixture, caused quite a stir in Germany on that balmy evening of 21 September. Because Steinhaus was the first women to officiate a professional match for the German football association (DFB). The match was attended by representatives of lifestyle magazines, who rarely show an interest in sport, as well as radio and television reporters. The interview marathon that began after the final whistle at 19.45h lasted until almost midnight, and the next day there followed a live appearance on das aktuelle Sportstudio, the mother of all sports talk shows on German television.
FULL OF PRAISE
Steinhaus turned down the endorsement deal she was offered by a jam manufacturer shortly afterwards. The 29-year-old finds the hype surrounding her rather amusing and knows that a degree of publicity is part and parcel of being a successful referee these days. But she does set boundaries, because as the only woman in a male-dominated profession she has a special status, even if the public hype has died down somewhat by now. She also knows that for those who judge her and her career as a referee, only her performance matters.
The German football association’s head of refereeing, Volker Roth, who has since offered Steinhaus more challenging assignments than her introductory match, is positive about her performance after seven games in the second division: “She has earned great respect.” This explains why the police officer from Hanover was recently selected, along with Christine Beck, as female referee of the year.
Roth’s views are also supported by statements from footballers. “Her refereeing was very good, there was absolutely nothing to object to,” says national team player Patrick Helmes, for example, who played with Cologne last season and is now a striker for Bayer Leverkusen.
Thorsten Judt goes even further: “I have no doubt that she could also referee in the first division; up to now she has received positive reactions from all quarters. I would have nothing against more women refereeing if their performance is up to standard.” The captain of recently relegated Kickers Offenbach explains what sets her apart as a referee: “She has a pleasant manner, she’s not so dogged and is always up for a little fun. As players, we try to behave better than we would towards a man, at least to be more polite, not so brash.”
Bibiana Steinhaus has good conflict management skills on the pitch. She deploys her personality and her feminine wiles. At 1.81m she is at eye level with most professional players and she is just as likely to smile mischievously as she is to train her sparkling blue eyes on an offending player. The fact that with her sandy blonde hair most of the players consider her good-looking surely does not hurt. And she knows what makes footballers tick. “I try to take preventive action. If someone has just scored a great goal, then I know that he might run to the fence to celebrate, and I try to prevent him from doing so,” explains the keen long-distance runner, who as a consequence usually does not have to issue too many cards.
Will all this be enough for her to become the first woman to referee in Germany’s first division before long? Roth refuses to be drawn, but repeats: “There are neither advantages nor disadvantages because she is a woman. She is judged in exactly the same way as her male colleagues.”
People will be curious to see whether the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2011™, to be organised by the German football association, will have any influence on her career. As a self-confessed supporter of women’s football, the president of the German football association, Theo Zwanziger, campaigned strongly to host the championship. Along with a strong national team, having a female referee in the men’s first division, which is common practice in other countries, would, of course, be a very welcome development.
And once Bibiana Steinhaus has celebrated her debut in the Bundesliga she surely will not turn down Thomas Gottschalk again. Want to bet?