Steinhaus relishes Cardiff date

Thursday's UEFA Women's Champions League final referee Bibiana Steinhaus says that although she has taken charge of a host of big matches, the feeling of excitement at "being there" never disappears.

German referee Bibiana Steinhaus takes charge of the UEFA Women's Champions League final in Cardiff
German referee Bibiana Steinhaus takes charge of the UEFA Women's Champions League final in Cardiff ©AFP

Referee Bibiana Steinhaus has no doubts about how she will feel when she lines up with the two teams before Thursday's UEFA Women's Champions League final between Lyon and Paris Saint-German at the Cardiff City Stadium.

"I will probably have goosebumps," says the 38-year-old police officer from the town of Bad Lauterberg, in the Lower Saxony region of northern Germany.

"It's probably the moment that I enjoy the most; the feeling of being there, of having been selected for this match together with my team," she reflects. "I'm really grateful to be there, and that people have trusted me enough to send me there."

Even if she is already well accustomed to taking charge of the biggest matches that women's football has to offer – such as the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup final in her home country, and the gold medal match at the 2012 Olympic women's football tournament in London – Steinhaus says that the feeling of excitement never goes away with each new appointment.

"It's a real honour to be asked to referee the match in Cardiff, and to be part of the Women's Champions League, which is an amazing competition."

Steinhaus will be accompanied at the final by assistant referees Katrin Rafalski and Christina Biehl, and fourth official Riem Hussein, all from Germany. Reserve official Sian Massey (England) completes the referee team.

She sees Thursday's all-French encounter in Wales as an ideal opportunity to highlight the massive strides that women's football – and women's refereeing – have both taken in recent years.

"The speed and dynamics of women's football have developed, for sure," Steinhaus explains. "The players are now athletes – and women referees have had to develop at the same pace. At this final and at the coming Women's EURO, we will have a chance to see just how much progress has been made.

"UEFA is giving huge support to women's football and women's refereeing, and this has been a big factor."

Another piece of good news came Steinhaus's way recently. Next season she will become the first female referee to officiate in the German men's Bundesliga – a fitting reward not only for her refereeing qualities, but also for the hard work that she has put in over the years.

"I became a referee because I wasn't a very good player," she recalls. "And refereeing got into my blood. I just enjoy what I'm doing, from game to game."

Steinhaus feels that respect is crucial in football, between players, coaches, referees and everyone else involved in the game. "We all wear Respect badges on our shirts, but we really have to all treat Respect as a real living value. We are all working on the same 'product' – football – and we have to come together, and 'sell' this product as it should be sold to the world."

The referee team in Cardiff will be focused and united. All of the officials will also be deploying the essential people management skills that referees need to succeed.

"I firmly believe that managing people is a key part of refereeing," Steinhaus emphasises. "It's like in life – how you react to people and how they respond to you. A referee is a decision-maker on the field; half of the players will agree with your decision, and half won't! That's the job of a decision-maker, in life as well.

"I always ask myself: 'Have I done the best job I could? Did I prepare in the right way? Did I do all I could to take the right decisions?' If I can say that I did all these things, then I'm able to feel comfortable with myself."