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German female ref ready to whistle in Bundesliga

Bibiana Steinhaus

Berlin, Germany | AFP | 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 Friday, meaning she will become the first female ref in the top flight of Germany, England, Spain, France or Italy.

Steinhaus’ first Bundesliga match has 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.

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