Sapir Berman made sports history on Monday by becoming the first transgender referee to officiate a soccer match in Isreal’s Premier League.
Berman took charge of the Israeli league match between Hapoel Haifa and Beitar Jerusalem after she publicly announced her transition at a news conference last Thursday.
“This is the first step in a long and wonderful journey. Sapir, we are proud to do it with you,” the Israel Football Association tweeted as she took the field for the contest between Beitar Jerusalem and Hapoel Haifa.
The 26-year-old, who has already made a mark as a top referee in Israel’s leading soccer league, said she had always seen herself as a female, even at a young age.
She told reporters that players had already begun addressing her as female – using the feminine form of words in Hebrew.
“They really feel that they want to somehow take part in this process and even speak to men when it’s not necessary and speak to me as a woman. So thank you,” Berman said.
Outside the stadium in the northern city of Haifa, one fan carried a banner that hailed Berman as a “super woman, incredible, brave”.
Berman is not the first transgender referee in the soccer world. Lucy Clark – a British soccer referee came out as transgender in 2018.