Four words that shook a nation: “It’s ……….Rebekah Vardy’s account.”
In a simple Twitter message, Coleen Rooney described her months of sleuthing and eventual dramatic conclusion. Whether or not Rebekah is responsible, what does it say about our society that the personal lives of ‘WAGs’ have become commodities? Being in a relationship with Wayne Rooney since they were 16 means Coleen has graced many a tabloid – not necessarily by choice – both directly and indirectly because of it. As a result of the early-2000s fixation on such stories, the lives of so-called ‘WAGs’ are considered synonymous with the drama of Real Housewives. However, times are changing, and ‘WAG’ seems a little too reductive for a group of hugely influential women who just happen to be married to footballers.
In a year of exhausting news about the government and the planet, maybe it really is time to switch the focus back to the power of women who are, incidentally, the wives and girlfriends of footballers. Whether we’re laughing at the thousands of Wagatha Christie memes, or genuinely in awe, it’s time to redefine ‘WAG’.
Let’s take it back to the start, the glowing centre of the ‘WAG’ universe: Victoria Beckham. You’d be forgiven for thinking nostalgically of the Spice Girls, or for seeing her as half of Posh and Becks. The Beckhams’ marriage is, and always has been, a huge topic of media discussion – but there’s much more to Victoria Beckham (OBE, might I add) than her husband. For a start, there is surely room to debate which of them was more culturally relevant when their relationship began. This isn’t to degrade either of them: David was a highly-rated Manchester United and England footballer, and Victoria was part of one of the biggest girl bands in history. She had, and has, a name for herself regardless of her marital status, and her career has blossomed irrespective of David’s footballing achievements. Not content with just musical success, Victoria launched a fashion empire. From 2008 onwards, she has been a designer, creating her own brand as well as collections with other designers. At points, her earnings have exceeded her husband’s. It isn’t all about the money, though. Victoria has promoted many good causes: Save the Children, Elton John’s AIDS Foundation (of which she is a patron), and multiple campaigns against the use of animal fur (she has banned it from her own clothing lines). She has also worked with Ban Bossy, an initiative aiming to promote female entrepreneurship. As if that wasn’t enough, she has four children and in September released a makeup range. ‘WAG’ doesn’t even begin to cover it.
Just like her Spice Girls predecessor, Little Mix star Perrie Edwards found herself a footballer boyfriend – Liverpool midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Whilst she takes every opportunity to show him support, Perrie’s own career has undoubtedly given her much more influence than her relationship could. She has more than double her partner’s Instagram following, and while that may not define success, she uses her reach on the platform for good. Aside from sharing glamourous photos of her life, she catalogues her struggles with body image and anxiety, telling followers: “Embrace your individuality. Love what you love without worrying about judgement” and “You’re not alone”. With an impressionable teenage fanbase, it’s surely worth praising the singer for her honesty and promotion of self-care.
But footballers’ partners shouldn’t have to be world-famous to be considered talented in their own right. Take Dr Natália Loewe Becker, for example. A fully-qualified medical professional, Natália works with the World Health Organisation as a WHO Goodwill Ambassador. Genuinely over-qualified for a position normally held by celebrities without a medicine degree, she uses her knowledge to promote breastfeeding, childhood vaccination, mental health awareness and overall wellbeing. Her work often focuses on deprived parts of her native Brazil, but extends globally. She happens to be married to Alisson Becker, goalkeeper for Liverpool and Brazil, rated among the best in the world. He is also a WHO Goodwill Ambassador (perhaps even because of his wife’s accomplishments) and uses his platform to help with spreading her knowledge to millions. Natália is an intelligent and incredibly competent professional in her own field, has married a man who excels in his vocation, and hasn’t sacrificed her passions.
Still, hats off to Coleen. We truly love your detective work. Deep down, we all enjoy a bit of drama, ‘WAG’-related or not. When it comes to ‘WAGs’, though, let’s start thinking of them as women to whom high-level athletes are lucky to be married, and who exist outside of their relationships. From the original ‘WAGs’ to modern influencers and to Wagatha Christie herself, these are women who are often unappreciated for doing a lot of good. Let’s hope their footballing partners can keep up …
– Amy Bond