Wed, Jun 20, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Female referee to police German soccer matches

AP , BERLIN

Bibiana Steinhaus thinks being a cop is a lot like being a referee -- which should help next season when she works German soccer's second division.

"The occupations of referee and police officer are similar -- it's an advantage to link them," the 28-year-old police officer said. "They are both about getting people to follow the rules."

Promoted as the only woman from Germany's lower divisions to the professional ranks, Steinhaus expects one aspect of the job to be a little easier -- less macho posturing from players and fans rampant in the semipro and amateur divisions.

"I have negative experiences to report. I was never physically attacked, but was the target of verbal abuse," Steinhaus said. "In the top leagues, the behavior is different. The players present themselves differently because their job is dependent on it."

Steinhaus is the second woman to break into one of Germany's two professional leagues -- the Bundesliga and second division -- but Gertrud Gebhard lasted just two matches as a Bundesliga line judge in 1995.

Steinhaus is aiming for more longevity.

"I want to prove the possibilities for men and women on the job and in refereeing are equal," she said. "There won't be any special privileges for me."

She started running games as a 16-year-old, climbing the ranks in a field were only 2 percent of Germany's 80,000 referees are female.

Steinhaus reached the regional league, or third division, in 2001.

"We have observed her since then -- there is no reason not to use her in professional matches," said Volker Roth, head of the referees' committee. "I'm sure even in the second league she will come up with good performances."

Steinhaus was informed of her promotion while at her day job as a police officer, battling anti-globalization protesters at the G8 Summit in Rostock, Germany, earlier this month.

"There hasn't been much time to break out the champagne," Steinhaus said.

Female referees in men's leagues are not unprecedented. The US and Brazil are two countries that have used women as referees in the past 10 years.

The 1.81m Steinhaus attributed her ascension to the pro ranks to training hard and never forgetting the job was -- above all else -- that of a "high-performance athlete."

Steinhaus expects adjustments in the second division, and not only the pace of the game and the ability of the players.

"Next season one thing will change more than anything -- the media presence," Steinhaus said. "But also the speed, the physicality will be different."

Steinhaus said her goal as referee was to direct the game in a positive way to her own satisfaction and that of others.

"I want to be consistent and forceful with the teams and be communicative. You can be decisive, but charmingly decisive," Steinhaus said. "My drive toward perfection is high -- where that will lead, I don't know."

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