Israeli football referee Sapir Berman made history on Monday, having officiated in his first Israeli Premier League game since leaving as a transgender. One of the top referees in the Israeli soccer league, Berman, 26, took the pitch for the match between Beitar Jerusalem and Hapoel Haifa, marking the first time a transgender referee has officiated in the country.
The Israel Football Association, the governing body of football in Israel, tweeted a photo of Berman’s referee. “This is the first stop on a long and wonderful journey,” said the association. “Sapir, we are proud to do it with you.”
Berman is not the first transgender referee in football, as UK referee Lucy Clark became transgender in 2018. But she is one of a small group of professional sports referees who have proven to be transgender.
Many fans who attended the game supported Berman.
“About the new referee, I think it’s very good,” Amit Opper, 50, told Reuters. “It can take football [a] step forward.”
“Anyone can do and be whatever they want to be and it’s okay,” said fellow fan Ronen Shukarnai, 41.
Berman, who came out last week as transgender, said at the time that she had always considered herself a woman.
“I was a successful man,” she said, according to Reuters. “Whether in the referees union or at school or with girls. But when I was alone I was a woman. And I separated between these worlds because I understood that society does not. wouldn’t accept me. “
Berman said she has already been adopted by players, noting that they have started using the feminine form of Hebrew words when addressing her.
“There are players who already speak to me as a woman,” she said. “They really feel like they want to somehow be part of this process and even talk to me when it’s not necessary and talk to me as a woman. So thank you.”