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April 14, 2013
For many years now, each issue of the German quality weekly DIE ZEIT, has featured a section entitled ‘I have a dream’, in which the paper invites a remarkable and well-known individual to share a dream with its readers. The column, always written in the first person, is accompanied by a high-quality black-and-white portrait of the celebrity concerned with his/her eyes closed. The sincerity and openness of the invitees is astonishing. Somehow the responsible journalists manage to persuade them to let go and not be afraid of sounding ridiculous. It’s no surprise that over the years the column has become a weekly must-read.
Recently ‘I have a dream’ featured Bibiana Steinhaus. The name of this 33-year-old German policewoman may not spontaneous ring a bell with everybody, but it blows a whistle with many followers of women’s football. Bibiana Steinhaus is not only the referee of the last women’s World Cup and Olympic finals in Berlin (2011) and London (2012) respectively, she is also the only woman who regularly leads matches in German professional men’s football, as main referee in the 2nd Bundesliga and lineswoman in the top-tier. And she is doing so with the successful mix of strictness, humour and respect that suits any referee well, male or female.
Ms Steinhaus, whose recent unintentional physical contact with a player from Hertha BSC Berlin (and her cool reaction to it) had a certain career on YouTube, enjoys enormous respect from the players. It actually makes you wish more games, national and international, would be refereed by women. The effects on some misbehaviour could be surprising. Perhaps UEFA should think about a suitable pilote competition for trying this out. As Ms Steinhaus says in her contribution to DIE ZEIT, ‘my dream is that is doesn’t matter any more whether a man or a woman blows the whistle. Or, for that matter, whether a man or a woman is the boss.’
Ms Steinhaus admitted to another dream. Actually, she is dreaming of … becoming redundant!
‘It would be fantastic if one day football wouldn’t need us refereed any longer. Of course, this would need an incredible degree of fairness, in both victory and defeat. Players would have to develop the capacity of self-criticism and a respectful interaction. And the same dream would be valid for a policewoman, too. So here is my call: do make both my jobs redundant!’
Obviously, contemporary football is nowhere near making referees redundant. And self-criticism is not the most widespread characteristic among today’s football players’, especially in the heat of the game (and on whatever level, by the way). But both the players and the game may consider themselves lucky to be able to count on people who do not need to be cynics to succeed.