London: Mad for the Soccer Wives

Posted on June 28, 2006

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by anglofille

As an American living in London, I find myself in the minority when it comes to excitement over the World Cup.  It’s not my cuppa tea.  I tried to get into it, I really did.  And to be honest, I’m disappointed that I turned out to be such a cliché.  I normally try to rise above the tired stereotypes of my homeland, but I failed this time.  However, although the actual matches being played bore me to tears, the World Cup as a cultural spectacle fascinates me.  Take, for example, the WAGs.

Photo via Frankfurter Allgemeine

The media here are obsessed with the England team’s wives and girlfriends, or as they are more frequently called, the WAGs.  I find this rather strange because in America, the wives of professional athletes rarely get any media coverage at all.  That’s not the case in England, where the exploits of these fake-boobed, fake-tanned, fake-nailed, fake-haired zombies seems to be of major interest.

The media is full of stories about the WAGs’ exploits in Baden Baden, where the England team is staying during the World Cup.  From their shopping binges and spa visits to all-night clubbing, the WAGs are in the news all the time.  And it’s not just the tabloids covering them.  The more serious news media is also showering them with attention, but cleverly, they’re covering the media frenzy surrounding the WAGs, not the WAGs themselves, which allows them to pretend they’re taking the journalistic high road when in fact they’re in the gutter with everyone else.

Apparently, the WAGs have seriously boosted the economy of tiny Baden Baden. From the Telegraph:

“The wives and girlfriends parade through the town exuding carefully contrived glamour. They are uniformly tiny, their hips as slimline as their vodka tonics. They teeter along the cobbled streets in spiky heels and skin-tight jeans, their eyes masked by saucer-sized sunglasses.”

According to the Telegraph, the English WAGs are unique among the international coterie of footballers’ wives and girlfriends, who appear to be keeping a lower profile.

“The assorted other halves of the England team, however, are a source of curious fascination because of the conspicuousness of their consumption. At the designer boutiques, they think nothing of dropping several thousand pounds in one go.”

Lodgings for the England team alone will reach £100,000 by the end of the tournament.  In contrast, the Australian team and their wives are managing to live rather modestly while in Germany, spending around £100 a night per room.  And as for the Costa Ricans, you gotta love ’em – they’re staying at the Holiday Inn.

The WAGs seem to be looked upon with national pride by the media, rather than derision.  And though I find the whole spectacle of the WAGs to be nauseating, I do admire the fact that they are making no attempt whatsoever to hide their shallowness.  I doubt we’ll see any Angelina Jolie-esque publicity stunts from them.  Don’t expect to see Victoria “I’ve never read a book in my life” Beckham posing with orphans or Coleen McLoughlin serving soup to the homeless.  In this age of media manipulation, it’s refreshing to watch the WAGs broadcast to the world – without an ounce of shame – that they are nothing more than image-obsessed, self-centered shopaholics.  Go England!