Trailblazer Steinhaus hangs up her whistle

Referee Bibiana Steinhaus talks to Robert Lewandowski of FC Bayern Munich 
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  • Bibiana Steinhaus calls time on her career as a referee
  • 41-year-old was the first woman to referee a professional men’s match in Germany
  • Took part in three FIFA Women’s World Cups

Bibiana Steinhaus’ appearance at the German Supercup between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund will see her make history yet again as she becomes the first woman to referee in that competition. And as it turns out, it will be a fitting end to the 41-year-old’s incredible and storied 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.

“This evening, I hope that my focus will be on the match and the match alone. And when the time is right, I will speak in a little more detail about the reasons for my retirement."

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.

In 2007, she made her Bundesliga 2 debut, and ten years later 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 with her typical humour and charisma in an interview a while back with How far it got her was refereeing 23 Bundesliga matches, 92 in the second division and 35 in the Women’s Bundesliga.

Philippe Coutinho of Bayern Muenchen and Referee Bibiana Steinhaus

"Bibi is a role model on the pitch for her qualities as an excellent referee, but also for her commitment, confidence and determination," said Kari Seitz, FIFA Head of Refereeing, Women. "When you are the first of anything, especially as a woman in a traditional role for men, it takes incredible strength to believe in yourself despite all the obstacles and prejudice.

"Off the field, Bibi is no less of an incredible role model. She always has a kind and motivational word for others. She tries to build up the people around her, giving them confidence to also be their best. She is a truly generous and kind person and I am pleased to have been her colleague as a referee, and to have had her as part of the team for the project 'Road to the FIFA Women’s World Cup'." 

Commenting on Steinhaus’ retirement via the federation's website, DFB Deputy General Secretary Heike Ullrich had this to say: "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. Her performances cannot be put into words, but nevertheless I would like to thank her from the bottom of my heart and hope that she will continue to be a part, not only of the refereeing community, but also of the football family as a whole."

Bibiana Steinhaus in brief

  • Born: 24 March 1979
  • Profession: Policewoman
  • DFB referee: since 1999
  • Women’s Bundesliga referee: 1999-2017
  • FIFA referee: since 2005
  • Bundesliga 2 referee: since 2007
  • Bundesliga referee: since 2017
  • Women’s referee of the year: 2006-2007, 2007-2008, 2008-2009, 2009-2010, 2010-2011, 2016-2017, 2017-2018
  • First woman to referee a FIFA Women’s World Cup™ Final (2011) and a Women’s Olympic Football Tournament final (2012)

Steinhaus was 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.

The atmosphere at a world championship is unique. To be able to lead the teams into the stadiums, to hear the national anthems and to be part of the puzzle as a referee, that's what we work really hard for.

Bibiana Steinhaus

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