Wednesday night’s Supercup between Bayern and Dortmund was not only noticeable for Bayern’s latest trophy acquisition, but also for it being the last game refereed by Bibiana Steinhaus before she retires from active duty. The 41-year-old trailblazer made history back in 2017 as the Bundesliga’s first ever female referee and all the positive tributes flooding her way are more than justified.
Before the kick-off at the Allianz Arena, Christian Seifert, managing director of the German Football League (DFL) presented her with a bouquet of flowers as a symbolic farewell gift. Earlier he had paid tribute saying, “Bibiana Steinhaus has firmly established herself among the Bundesliga referees in recent years and has earned respect and recognition for her achievements. The end of her career comes as a surprise. Personally, I wish her all the best for the future – and that the Supercup will be remembered as a worthy end to her career.”
DFB Lutz Michael Fröhlich added his praise by saying, “Bibiana is an exceptional figure. She deserves the highest recognition for what she has achieved, the highest respect for her decision and a big thank you on my part for the absolutely trusting cooperation. Bibiana Steinhaus is an absolute asset to football, both in terms of the way she conducts the games and in her personal contact.”
It was three years ago that the policewoman from Langenhagen made her history-making bow as the first female referee in the topflight after years officiating in the 2. Bundesliga. That match at the Olympiastadion as Hertha hosted Werder Bremen was ground-breaking at the time, but such has been the positive impact she has made that her gender really paled into insignificance as the seasons passed.
“At the end of the day, it’s the performance that counts,” Steinhaus told Deutsche Welle in 2017. “And the person who has the best performance should be allowed to be on the pitch, regardless of gender, hair colour or religion. That’s all that counts.”
23 Bundesliga matches later, and she has certainly succeeded in her intention to remove gender from being an issue. While the age limit for Bundesliga referees is 47 years, Steinhaus took time during the enforced corona virus lockdown to take stock and came to the decision to call time on her refereeing career. She will however continue to be available as a video assistant lending her huge talents over to the VAR team in Cologne.
German football’s man of the year Hansi Flick summed it up perfectly on Wednesday when he said, “She shaped German football for a long time and did a sensationally good job.”
Referees generally get a pretty bad press and are often at the forefront of much of the controversy. That she will be sorely missed is credit to her.
Danke Bibiana Steinhaus.