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First match for Israel transgender top-flight football referee

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Israeli football referee Sapir Berman (L) gestures with the whistle during the Israeli Premier League match between Hapoel Haifa and Beitar Jerusalem on Monday. JACK GUEZ / AFP

First match for Israel transgender top-flight football referee

Sapir Berman, the Israeli premier league's first transgender football referee, presided Monday over her first top-flight game since coming out as a woman.

Berman announced late last month that she had changed her name from Sagi to Sapir and identified as a woman.

The move made the 26-year-old, who has been refereeing in Israel's premier league since 2011, the league's first transgender referee.

Berman took to the field on Monday at Haifa's Sammy Ofer stadium to a mixture of applause and whistles.

One supporter held a sign reading, "Sapir, we are all with you".

Hapoel Haifa won the match 3-1 against Beitar Jerusalem.

"I do not know if I am a pioneer or the first (referee) to do that -- I am going through this process for me," Berman said last month.

She said she had received threats on social media but also support, including from colleagues.

Ronit Tirosh, head of the Israeli referees' union, called Berman "courageous" and said she had started "a historic process for Israeli football".

Israel is seen as progressive in promoting LGBTQI equality.

The Middle Eastern country recognises gay marriages performed abroad, but homosexuality remains a taboo in religious Jewish circles.

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