Ever dreamed of becoming a world-renowned sports star? Take a moment to contemplate the iconic status, the lavish lifestyle, the adoring fans and the glamorous spouse.
If you happen to be a woman, you can have all that sans the athletic rigmarole. Simply get hitched to a world-class soccer player.
Gone are the days when footballers’ arm candy was rarely in the public eye. The wives of high-ranking soccer stars today are the focus of as much media fascination as their husbands.
Mostly in their 20s — their husbands' livelihood wanes post-30 — they are a unique breed of celebrity, though not unaccustomed to the role. Many have had careers as models, actresses, television presenters and pop stars, such as Mrs. David Beckham, the former Posh Spice, and the-soon-to-be Mrs. Ashley Cole, who is the lead singer of Girls Aloud.
One reason is that footballers now earn the fortunes to move regularly in the worlds of fame and fashion. Model Kristen Park met her husband, twice European footballer of the year, Andriy Schvchenko, at a Giorgio Armani party. Next season, Schevchenko moves from AC Milan to Chelsea, where he will be earning upward of $5 million a year plus bonuses.
That is five times the average salary in the English Premier League, which has risen 65 percent since 2000, providing swelling disposable income for footballers' better halves to spend like water. Colleen McLoughlin, the fiancée of young England striker Wayne Rooney, is regularly snapped by the paparazzi whenever she emerges from designer boutiques laden with colorful shopping bags.
The proliferation of celebrity media is another reason why the wives and girlfriends of soccer players have turned into a tabloid staple. "They’ve got these amazingly out-of-this-world, glamorous lives," says Jane Johnson, editor of Closer, a four-year-old women’s weekly magazine heavily laced with celebrity news. "They drive the top of the range Mercedes, look immaculate and have a lifestyle which people want to emulate."
Footballers’ wives “used to be a bit of joke," says Jane Bruton, editor of rival women's magazine Grazia. "They'd turn up in naff outfits all blinged up, but they've had a style make over. Now they're going out into pretty amazing gear." It is another illustration of the great Circle of Celebrity Life: In the wake of increasing public interest, boost your efforts to look good, and thus fuel the public interest further.
But it is the uniquely competitive nature of their group that spurs soccer spouses to ever-greater heights of celebrity. Yes, there are some common bonds — the joylessness of being shunted from country to country at the whim of the transfer market, the disappointment of broken metatarsals and the exclusion from the intensity of the all-male locker-room camaraderie.
Yet throw the wives and partners together in a Germany hotel this summer and there will be intense pressure to out-bling, out-wax and out-exercise one another for the cameras. Mrs. Beckham, the Queen Bee of this hive, is reportedly packing five outfits for each day of the World Cup, in the knowledge that this could well be her husband's last international appearance. Mr. Beckham will not be the only one going out with a bang.