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My 1966 World Cup Wedding

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By Helgard Sofie Shaw

Helgard Sofie Shaw grew up in Germany and married an Englishman. But the date they set for their wedding turned out to have an unusual significance.

I will never forget the date: 30th July 1966. I was not at Wembley, but in Germany. To be precise the Black Forest, where I had grown up. I had just married my English man. The church ceremony was in a beautiful Romanesque chapel and the reception in a small hotel in the middle of the woods. It had exquisite cuisine. Afterwards, my parents led a convoy of cars to another inn, high up in the forest. My mother had warned me in the morning that the men wanted to see “the game”! I consider myself a “sports agnostic”,
so I groaned inwardly. But I understood that my father, brother, cousins and guests had different ideas
I resigned myself to the fact. “Oh well,” I thought. “It takes – what – sixty minutes? Meanwhile I can dream.” Little did I know.
 
When we entered the TV Room, the lights had been switched off and the pre-match build-up was in full swing. The TV picture at that time was only in black- and-white. When my eyes had become accustomed to the dark, I noticed that there we were in a large room with a long table in the middle. About twenty people, mostly young men, were sitting at the far end. Our party of nine sat at the other end.

Helgard on her wedding day

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When the game started, I began to dream and doze happily, in spite of the noise from the TV. I had a coffee in front of me. It was warm in the room and after the excitement of the morning, I was wilting. I welcomed a respite.
 
Suddenly I was jolted out of my dream. A goal! A gathered it must have been one for the German side because all the men at the far end of the table jumped up, dancing round their chairs and yelling at the top of their voices. To my amazement (and disdain), I saw that even my academic cousin was joining in the fray. There was another goal. Although I did not watch the screen, I could tell from the moans and heavy sighs at the other end that it was an English goal. Then my newly-wed husband suddenly jumped up and, imitating the German lads, danced round his chair and yelled at the top of his voice. At first, they looked up in astonishment. This then developed into downright hostility. Later, the game went into extra time. Turning back to the screen, I realised to my surprise that I was following the game and was gripped by the action. Now I did want to know! Who would win?
 
When the last decisive goal for England was scored, there was a deathly silence. It was the famous – or infamous – goal. It depended which side you looked at it from. Either from the English or German perspective. It was the most controversial goal in football history. It would be debated for years to come by both countries alike. “Yes, it was over the line” “No it wasn’t in”. And it is warmed up again at every World Cup since.
 
The lights were switched back on. I saw a thoroughly dejected lot at the far end of the table, hanging their heads. Various groans were heard from that direction. Whilst the men were crying into their beer, my newly- wed English husband stood up and said, in his halting German, “Meine herren, unfortunately you have lost the World Cup, but I have won a wife!” Their faces cleared instantly, they tucked away their chagrin and ordered wine for us all to make a toast. For quite a while we still sat together, chatting animatedly with one another. The former antagonism was forgotten. We were doing our bit for Entente.
 
I was amazed. “What a courageous husband you have got yourself!” I cherished the thought all the way down home through the woods. In years to come, I would have occasion to be reminded, again and again, what
a bold, brave husband I had married that day of the World Cup Final in 1966.

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