In a historic moment for the LGBT community in Israel, when soccer referee Sapir Berman led the Israeli Premier League match on Monday night, she became the first transgender woman to officiate a soccer match in Israel.
At a press conference last Tuesday, Berman, 26 told reporters regarding her decision to come out, “here I am, confident that I’m doing the right thing…I hope that our society improves and becomes better and more inclusive towards all sectors and all genders. We are here to bring about changes.”
Berman has received the support of the Israel Football Association and the Israel Referees Association and says that her ambitions remain the same. As Berman took the field ahead of Monday night’s match, the Israel Football Association tweeted, “This is the first step in a long and wonderful journey. Sapir, we are proud to do it with you,”
Berman said, “I want to continue refereeing at the highest level and, if possible, to referee international matches.” She also says that she has received the support of family and fans.
At the match on Monday night one Hapoel Haifa fan held up a banner saying, “Sapir Berman, Super Woman,” while a Beitar Jerusalem fan told the media, “We have nothing personal against anyone. Everyone should live their own lives.”
In a Facebook post, NIF grantee Kick It Out Israel (KIO), which has spearheaded the campaign against racism, homophobia and sexism in Israeli soccer and which has promoted inclusivity for nearly 20 years, congratulated Berman on her brave move.
While there are other transgender soccer referees in the world, Berman is the first out transgender person to lead a match in any country’s top professional league.