Israel Referee Sapir Berman announced his sexuality as a transgender on Monday and creates sports history by participating in an Israeli Premier League football match for the first time as a woman.
Israel Football Association tweeted “This is the first step in a long and amazing journey. Sapir, we are proud to do this with you,” when Berman entered the fray for competition between Beitar Jerusalem and Hapoel Haifa.
The 26-year-old, who was already the top referee in Israel’s first football league, publicly announced her transition at a news conference last Tuesday, stating that she always found herself as a woman, even at a young age.
She told reporters that players had already started using the feminine form of Hebrew words when addressing her.
“They really feel that they want to participate in this process somehow and even talk to men when it is not necessary and talk to me as a woman. So thank you,” said Berman.
A fan showed a kind gesture outside the stadium in the northern city of Haifa, flashing a banner that read “super lady, incredible, brave.”
In Israel’s Premier League, Berman has worked as a soccer referee for several years, and last week the referee revealed the identity as a woman after 26 years. She said that she had received the support of family, fans, soccer officials and players.
Berman is not the first transgender referee in the football world. Lucy Clarke, a British football referee, appeared as a transgender in 2018.