First Israeli Transgender Soccer Referee May Get Netflix Deal, Reports Say

Berman has been approached by both online streaming giant Netflix and movie studio MGM in recent days

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Sapir Berman warms up on the pitch ahead of the Israeli Premier League match in Haifa, this week.
Sapir Berman warms up on the pitch ahead of the Israeli Premier League match in Haifa, this week. Credit: JACK GUEZ / AFP

Sapir Berman, a popular Israeli soccer referee who made history after coming out as transgender last week, has reportedly received multiple offers to produce content based on her life, Israeli television reported on Wednesday.

According to Channel 12, Berman has been approached with deals by both online streaming giant Netflix and movie studio MGM in recent days, as her story has made headlines around the world.

Speaking to the press at a news conference at the headquarters of the Israel Football Association last Tuesday, Berman introduced herself as transgender, emphasizing the support she has received from her family, the local referees’ union and Israeli and international soccer officials.

““I’m Sapir. I’m 26 years old. I’ll be 27 in June. I always saw myself as a woman, from a very young age. At first, I couldn’t give this a name, but I was always attracted to my feminine side, and there was some envy of the female sex,” she said. 

Addressing her reasons for going public with her identity, Berman said that she did so “first of all for myself, for my soul, and then for my family, so they don’t see me suffering,” she related.

“I didn’t let them see my suffering, but in recent days, before coming out, I was less than my real self. So here I am, confident that I’m doing the right thing, that I’m enjoying wide support. I hope that our society improves and becomes better and more inclusive towards all sectors and all genders. We are here to bring abosut changes.”

In response to a question from Haaretz about the importance of her transition to the visibility of transgender people, Berman said: “I’m at the beginning of this process and am still dealing with my own issues. I realize that the platform I occupy as a soccer referee every week, where I’m visible, gives life to this story and to transgender society. When I feel completely at ease I’ll try to work and make things better.”

This Monday, Berman officiated at her first match since coming out.

"This is the first step in a long and wonderful journey. Sapir, we are proud to do it with you," the Israel Football Association tweeted as she took the field for the contest between Beitar Jerusalem and Hapoel Haifa, which ended with a 3-1 victory to Hapoel Haifa.

After the match, Berman described the public’s reaction as intensely positive.

“If last week I said I hope there will be a change in society, I see it happening and I'm most happy about it, and it's good that it's happening,” she said, stating that she had received “countless messages.”

Berman is not the first transgender referee in the soccer world. A British soccer referee, Lucy Clark, came out as transgender in 2018.

While neither MGM nor Netflix responded to Channel 12’s requests for comment, referees’ union director Yariv Tepper was quoted as saying that Berman would wait until the end of the current season before responding to offers.

“Once the season is over, she will make a decision and do what she wants,” he stated.

There have been several high profile films and series focused on the transgender community in recent years, from Amazon’s Transparent, about a man coming out to his children, to Neflix’s Disclosure, a documentary in which “leading trans creatives and thinkers share heartfelt perspectives and analysis about Hollywood's impact on the trans community.”

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