BERLIN, Aug 16: Germany�s Bibiana Steinhaus insists she is no feminist trailblazer as she prepares to become the first female ref in Europe�s top leagues having already tamed Bayern Munich�s stars.
The 38-year-old is on the official list of Bundesliga referees for the 2017/18 season, which starts on Friday, meaning she will become the first female ref in the top flight of Germany, England, Spain, France or Italy.
Steinhaus� first Bundesliga match is yet to be announced, but she oversaw Bayern Munich�s 5-0 win at minnows Chemnitz last Saturday in the first-round of the German Cup and proved she can handle star players.
She gave Bayern�s Franck Ribery a playful punch on the arm after the French winger cheekily untied her boot laces before a free-kick.
�She�s strong, she has a lot of power,� said Ribery.
�It was funny, she played along and was in good spirits.
�You can have fun with referees, but it�s also important that there�s mutual respect.�
Steinhaus says her promotion to the Bundesliga is a �great incentive� and reward for her hard work, but shuns her role as a trailblazer.
�I never planned, and still don�t today, to break new grounds of emancipation,� she said at a referee�s training camp in July. �I am only doing what I love.�
Steinhaus has taken charge of around 80 German second division matches since 2011, refereeing the women�s final at the London Olympic Games tournament and this year�s women�s Champions League final.
She has already acted as the fourth official in Germany�s top tier and shrugged off Pep Guardiola�s attempt to put his arm around her shoulders when the then-Bayern coach remonstrated with her on the touchlines in 2014.
Unfortunately, the 1.81m Steinhaus has already experienced direct sexism on the pitch.
During a second division match in 2015, she sent off Hoffenheim�s Germany international Kerem Demirbay, then playing for Fortuna Duesseldorf, who told her women had no place in football.
The remark led to him receiving a five-match ban by the German FA.
Steinhaus, who works with a fitness coach, acknowledges that refereeing in the Bundesliga will challenge her both on and off the pitch.
�I like to say that the Bundesliga is another step up, I have worked intensively and the speed is different,� said Steinhaus.
�Certainly, as a female referee, I will be under special scrutiny from the start of the season, especially from the media. I don�t seek public attention and my colleagues know me well enough to know that.�
Steinhaus is a policewoman and in a relationship with English former top ref Howard Webb.
She can expect to have her decisions scrutinised by fans in football-mad Germany.
Claudia Neumann, Germany�s first female commentator, experienced a sexist backlash on social media when she took the microphone for state broadcaster ZDF during last year�s European championships.
�In football, which is the favourite child of German men, changes are about as welcome as an annoying bout of diarrhoea,� Neumann told SID, an AFP subsidiary.
A survey by Loughborough University has found only 3.7 per cent of senior positions in European football are occupied by women. Even in women�s football, 10 of the 12 teams in Germany�s top flight are coached by men.
Nevertheless, Steinhaus is relishing her chance to make history by blowing her whistle in the Bundesliga.
�It has always been my dream and I am delighted that it will come true,� she said. � AFP