Israeli soccer’s first transgender referee took the field Monday for the first time since coming out publicly as a woman last week.
Sapir Berman, 26, blew the whistle as head referee to kick off the Hapoel Haifa vs. Beitar Jerusalem match.
She was greeted with little fanfare by the sparse crowd at Sami Ofer Stadium. A Haifa fan held up a sign “Sapir Berman super woman.”
In pre-game warmups and during the match, it was business as usual for the players. Some chatted and laughed with her before kickoff. Beitar Jerusalem fan Omer Weiss told Israel’s Kan public broadcaster that “we have nothing personal against anyone. Everyone should live their own way.”
Monday evening’s game in the northern port city of Haifa had been postponed by a day after Israel declared Sunday a national day of mourning for the 45 people killed in last week’s stampede during Lag BaOmer festivities at Mount Meron.
Berman has been serving as a soccer referee in Israel’s Premier League for several years before publicly coming out as a woman last week. She said that she had received much support from family, fans, soccer officials and players.
Berman told reporters that players had already begun using the feminine form of words in Hebrew when addressing her.
"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," she said.
Berman follows in the footsteps of British soccer referee Lucy Clark, who came out as transgender in 2018.