Friday 28 October 2016

Sinead Kissane: Not all wags conform to tedious stereotype

Published 25/05/2013 | 05:00

Jessica greets Ronan after Munster’s Heineken Cup semi-final defeat
Jessica greets Ronan after Munster’s Heineken Cup semi-final defeat

I DON'T like the term wags. I don't know anyone who does. It can objectify wives and girlfriends and stereotype them as some kind of Balenciaga-carrying bunch who've bagged the star man. Some see them as another forum to voyeuristically grade women into Who's Hot. And Who's Hotter.

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Not that the shenanigans in Baden-Baden during the 2006 FIFA World Cup did anything to straighten out that image about footballers' wives. In the media love-in, players' partners flashed the cash in the German city while their English husbands failed to cash in on their talent on the pitch. The women were all dressed up. But they had nothing to say.

It is a world away from the actions of one Irish woman this week. For once Ronan O'Gara's comments were outshone by someone else – his wife, Jessica. Her interview following the announcement of Ronan's retirement as a player carried a weight and resonance usually reserved for people like, well, her husband.

"But the way last season ended for him was dreadful. I don't mind saying that. It was awful," Mrs O'Gara said. "He was really mistreated. For what he gave to Ireland for so many years he could have been treated a lot better."

How rare it is in Irish sport, in Irish life, that a wife publicly speaks out and defends her husband. Her words were refreshing and revelatory. Why should she be the silent partner while everyone else is having their say on how Ronan's international career ended? Why shouldn't the most important person in his life give her view?

It may have been easier for Mrs O'Gara to talk publicly because her husband's playing career is now over. But it still doesn't make it easy. Her words hit home because they came from the heart of a home. Unsweetened. With nothing added for effect.

During the playing career of a sportsman it is frowned upon for wives to get openly involved in their work. Would it hurt the ego of a player to have his partner publicly question the way he's being treated by his boss, breaking the tight bond of the dressing room? How would you feel about it in your own workplace? Clearly there are times when women shouldn't get involved because how can you defend an indefensible act? Or even a ridiculous one.

Have you heard of Tanya Robinson? Probably not. She hit the headlines in the UK this week when she waded into the war of words with her boyfriend's manager. You may not be overly familiar with her boyfriend either – he's the Sunderland player Phil Bardsley. He covered himself in glory when he was photographed covered in 50 pound notes while lying on the floor of a casino.

He was hit with a fine and a ban from his boss Paolo Di Canio. Fair enough? His girlfriend didn't think so. Ms Robinson tweeted: "He's not raped or killed any1 so certain people need to stop being psycho drama queens".

Who exactly is being the drama queen here?

The bootroom seems to be more sacrosanct than the bedroom. Alex Ferguson used to be riled up by the influence he believed Victoria Beckham had over her husband. Fergie probably cringed at the comments made by Spanish TV presenter Sara Carbonero earlier this year. Her boyfriend is Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas and she caused a storm when she claimed in an interview that there was a split between the players and the manager Jose Mourinho. Obviously she had a pretty reliable inside track. Should she be castigated for making that known to the public? No.

Coleen Rooney has used Twitter to show her support for her husband. But it seems she's willing to publicly step back at times too. During the controversy over Wayne's decision to ask for a transfer from Manchester United, Coleen tweeted "My husband has a twitter account ... . @WayneRooney. So please tweet him not me." Ahead of her family's move to Paris this summer, Mrs O'Gara tweeted a picture of a French dictionary as they prepare for a new way of life. This is a woman who's got her husband's back. That translates impressively in any language.

Sinead Kissane is a sports presenter and reporter at TV3

Irish Independent

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