Dressage Dreams and a Goalkeeper’s Regime - Part 3
I have just spent a significant amount of time watching my cursor persistently blink on my screen urging me to write about the previously mentioned subject of WAG’s. Cue Asmir cringing at the realisation that I am about to broach this sensitive subject and the looks and banter that are undoubtedly being directed his way in the changing room as the other players realise this. I’ll go easy on the WAG's-this is not a tell-all autobiography!
What is a ‘WAG’? Well from the time of its introduction during the 2006 World Cup in Germany, it has evolved into a vast array of definitions, inaccurate representations and myths, many of which I’d like to dispel. In pursuit of journalistic integrity, research was required. I had to cast back my memory with illustrative photo diaries, thanks to the power of Google, to the birthplace of the term WAG, for the wife or girlfriend of a footballer.
It all began in Baden Baden, Germany when the paparazzi documented every well-heeled stride of each of the England players’ wife or girlfriend. They were instantly propelled into the growing media frenzy and tabloids surrounding the England players at the tournament. Never before had any outfit choice, hairstyle or spray tan of a WAG been so meticulously analysed by the public. Suddenly there was this curiosity as though we were a new species discovered that had to be studied and documented from eating to shopping habits?!
This though was not the foundations behind the already established idea of what a WAG was. The 8 yearlong British television drama Footballer’s Wives portrayed a more sinister existence from infidelity to criminal behaviour, which made for great television, but certainly does not even come close to real footballing partnerships, which are usually much less exciting!
It is not all champagne, socialising and shopping-its more school runs and snotty noses. Over the years I have met and enjoyed the company of such a diverse and wonderful group of ladies all with their own identities and interests. Yes, some of us do spend a lot of time in shopping, spas and other such activities, even myself on occasion! But it’s not exclusively behaviour of a WAG. Some of us have our own careers, others choose to be housewives or full-time mothers (which I think is one of he hardest jobs of all) or even pursue their own sporting ambitions!
The one common theme though that does seem apparent and is often questioned, is the amount of time some WAG’s have at their leisure. This is often not by choice but dictated by the unpredictable training and game schedules or unforeseen short notice moves to new clubs that render any commitment to a career unfeasible for a wife or girlfriend. It has been really challenging at times for Asmir and I trying to balance our two very hectic and changeable schedules especially with a very energetic 4 year-old starting school this month.
Maintaining friendships that are constantly challenged by distances and changes to squads can be difficult. Here at Stoke we have a wonderful group of ladies that I feel fortunate to know and have a good giggle with when we have time. Our children grow up together as an extended Stoke family, which only strengthens the bonds that we have not only to each other, but also to the club.
I mentioned Bosnia’s victory in Slovenia when I last wrote. Bosnia still narrowly lead qualifying group G, on equal points with Greece but with a far superior goal difference. The deciding game could be either of the two remaining games in October. If they qualify, the celebrations in Sarajevo will be heard around world!
I’ve visited Bosnia a number of times with Asmir, usually to watch one qualifying game or another. The matches are normally played in Zenica, about an hour’s drive from Sarajevo. The ground and the area around it are pretty intimidating and very East-European in style. The atmosphere for visiting teams is quite hostile, but being a small and partly open ground, it’s not as loud as the Britannia (on a good day). The atmosphere around the ground is crazy in the hours before the match with thousands of people thronged around the team hotel, waiting to catch a glimpse of the players before they get on the bus to drive about a quarter of a mile to the ground.
Zenica is an industrial town, but the team train in Sarajevo, which is a great city. The centre of the city has been mostly repaired and rebuilt after the war, although reminders of the conflict are everywhere in the form of buildings damaged by bombs and gunfire.
The prettiest part of the city is the Bascarsija, or “Old Town”. It is a warren of narrow streets, squares, trinket shops and lots of cafes serving eye wateringly strong coffee. This part of the city reflects its Turkish history and is a great place to sample Bosnia’s contribution to world cuisine, Cevapi. This delicious dish consisting of little minced meat kebabs, served on a flatbread with onions and sour cream. Bosnians usually wash it down with a yoghurt drink, but I prefer a cold beer.
Sarajevo is a real “East meets West” city, and in a couple of hundred yards you can walk from the Turkish feel of the old town, through a district that feels like Vienna (complete with Viennese Coffee and Cake shops), and on into a typically East-European looking part. The one uniting theme I recognise is Coffee, which is a national passion run a close second to football.
The last two Bosnian qualification campaigns have ended in heartbreak, but please keep you fingers crossed for Bosnia this time.