A historic moment. Bibiana Steinhaus‘ appearance at the German Supercup between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund saw the 41-year-old make history yet again as she became the first woman to referee in that competition. Sadly, she later announced that the match was the end of what has been a magnificent and outstanding career.
“Like a lot of people during the time of the coronavirus pandemic, I got to thinking quite a bit and re-evaluating things. I had a very honest and constructive discussion with Lutz Michael Frohlich, who is head of elite refereeing for the German Football Association (DFB), and after weighing up a lot of factors very carefully, I decided to bring an end to my career as a referee, both domestically and internationally,” Steinhaus said.
Her decision brings to an end a career like no other, and one which ushered in a new era. Steinhaus was the first woman to make it into the Bundesliga, overcoming plenty of resistance and silencing the doubters.
She made her Bundesliga 2 debut in 2007, and ten years later, she got to officiate at her first-ever match in Germany’s top flight, when Hertha Berlin took on Werder Bremen. She has also been refereeing the elite of the Women’s Bundesliga since 1999.
“My main aim is to be consistent with each and every team and to be an open communicator. I am a perfectionist so I set myself very high standards. We’ll see how far that gets me!” said Steinhaus in one of her many interviews to FIFA.com, regarding the change she made from women’s to men’s football referring.
Her stats are surprising: Twenty-three Bundesliga matches, 92 in the 2nd division and 35 in the Women’s Bundesliga. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Steinhaus was also a familiar face on the international scene as well as in Germany. She was named on the FIFA referees list in 2005 and went on to officiate at a whole host of tournaments. She refereed not only at three FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cups (at Chile 2008, Germany 2010 and Canada 2014), but also at the last three FIFA Women’s World Cups, at Germany 2011, Canada 2015 and France 2019. Unfortunately for Steinhaus, she pulled a muscle during her first match in France, in the group game between the host nation and Norway, and took no further part in the tournament.
Steinhaus’ expertise was not limited to women’s football. At the FIFA U-17 World Cup Brazil 2019, Steinhaus was the first woman Video Assistant Referee (VAR) at a FIFA men’s competition. Finally, commenting on Steinhaus’ retirement via the federation’s website, DFB Deputy General Secretary, Heike Ullrich, said:
“Bibiana Steinhaus is not just a great person but an incredibly good referee, who has officiated at plenty of decisive matches, both domestically as high as the Bundesliga and internationally.
“She was a trailblazer around the globe for other female referees who now get to officiate in professional men’s football. Way beyond the 90 minutes, and indeed over many years, she has been a model of skill and professionalism on and off the pitch.”
Without a doubt, Steinhaus’ performances cannot be put into words. Nevertheless, even if she ended her career as a referee, it would be nice if such legendary figure continues to be a part of this sport, whether is men’s or women’s.