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Matched officials! Former elite referees Howard Webb and Bibiana Steinhaus got married

Congratulations are due to former World Cup and Champions League final referees Howard Webb and Bibiana Steinhaus, who have revealed that they got married recently.

The two elite officials, who have each taken charge of matches at the very top of the sport and officiated at five World Cups between them, tied the knot last month in Steinhaus’ hometown of Hannover, Germany.

In what may have been a nod to his profession, Webb wore an all-black outfit as the refereeing world’s answer to Brangelina (Howiana? Bibward? Webbhaus?) posed for their wedding pictures.

“It’s true. We married during the last international break and are very happy,” Bibiana, who now goes by the name of Steinhaus-Webb, told Bild. “Because of the coronavirus regulations we sadly could only make this important step alone.

“They didn’t even allow witnesses to the marriage. And naturally we haven’t been on honeymoon yet.”

Webb, 49, is the former Premier League official who took charge of more than 500 first-class competitive matches during his career including, in 2010, both the Champions League final and the notoriously fractious World Cup final between Netherlands and Spain.

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Steinhaus is similarly accomplished, having refereed at every level of the women’s game including a Champions League final, the 2011 World Cup final, and the 2012 Summer Olympics gold medal match.

The 42-year-old then made history during the 2017-18 season when she became the first-ever female referee to officiate in the men’s Bundesliga. She was at times the subject of abuse from the terraces, but she didn’t let that stop her from enjoying an elite career in which she was named DFB Women’s Referee of the Year on seven occasions. Steinhaus retired in September 2020 after overseeing the DFL Supercup match between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.

Howard and Bibiana were both police officers before becoming professional refs, and between them they took charge of hundreds of matches since qualifying in 1995 and 1999 respectively.

Webb took charge of 534 games between 2000 and 2013, administering 1,694 yellow cards and 68 reds. However, he later admitted he was “gutted beyond belief” not to have shown a 69th to Nigel de Jong for the Dutchman’s flying stamp on Xabi Alonso during the first half of the 2010 World Cup final. De Jong somehow escaped with a yellow card despite planting his studs into Alonso’s chest, though Webb later recalled that due to his position on the pitch he’d missed the actual impact and therefore only deemed the challenge to warrant a caution.

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According to FIFA, Steinhaus-Webb ended her career having refereed 23 Bundesliga matches, along with a further 92 matches in the German second division and 35 in the Women’s Bundesliga, where she made her officiating debut. As per Soccerbase, she dished out 164 yellow cards and three reds in competitive men’s fixtures between 2015 and 2020.

For the time being, at least, the happy couple will be based on either side of the Atlantic: Webb in New York City, where he works as the general manager for Major League Soccer’s Professional Referee Organization; Steinhaus in Germany, where she works as a VAR official based at the DFB’s headquarters in Cologne. But with such a shared passion for maintaining law and order on the football field, they are clearly meant for each other.

While news of two professional referees getting married is something of a novelty, it isn’t entirely without precedent.

Back in 2019, the Romanian fourth division clash between CA Oradea and CS Diosig got off to an unusually romantic start as one of the match officials on duty proposed to another on the pitch.

Assistant referee Marius Matica got down on one knee and popped the prematch question to girlfriend Gyorgi Duma, who just so happened to be running the other line.

Spoiler alert: she said yes.

ESPN’s Germany correspondent Stephan Uersfeld contributed to this report

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