Home » Players’ wives talk about life with footballers: Money rarely makes you happy

Players’ wives talk about life with footballers: Money rarely makes you happy

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Players’ wives talk about life with footballers: Money rarely makes you happy

A documentary follows the partners of five stars. Little remains of the cliché that women indulged in luxury with a carefree attitude.

During the 2023 Champions League final, Sara Gündogan still wore the Manchester City jersey, where her husband Ilkay played. She found out about his move to Barcelona hardly earlier than the public.


While talking to her sister, Taylor Ward’s world collapses. She has just found out from her husband, professional footballer Riyad Mahrez, that after many years at Manchester City, he will be moving to al-Ahli in Saudi Arabia with immediate effect. Faced with this idea, Ward begins to cry and sobs in a tearful voice that she loves her husband, but not the thing.

So far, the British model and the daughter of a reality TV celebrity has spent her life exclusively in Manchester. But now moving abroad is inevitable. The 26-year-old says that this scenario has always been her biggest worry – and adds the bitter-sounding sentence that she feels like she actually has no choice.

Ward’s good friend Sara Gündogan describes the challenge of a player transfer in a similar way. Her partner, Ilkay Gündogan, like his teammate Mahrez, also said goodbye to Manchester in the summer of 2023 and signed with FC Barcelona after months of reflection. Nevertheless, his partner seemed to have had little involvement in the decision and did not find out about the change much earlier than the public. She was simply told: “Okay, we’re moving now.”

The turning point in her life happened so immediately that she didn’t even realize it at first, says Sara Gündogan. While her husband is on an international trip with the German national team, she is packing her bags in their shared apartment in Manchester.

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The sequences described come from the six-part documentary about women players in top football that was recently released on Amazon Prime. The telling title: “Married to the game”. The protagonists are five women whose partners played in the English Premier League at the beginning of recordings: Ward and Gündogan as well as Catherine Harding (girlfriend of Arsenal midfielder Jorginho), Ashley Turner (wife of Nottingham goalkeeper Matt Turner) and Samantha Tarkowski (partner of Everton defender James Tarkowski).

Trailer der Dokumentation «Married to the game».


The series asks the women about living with footballers and accompanies them through their everyday lives. The look behind the scenes goes beyond the previously often superficial portrayal of such women. Tarkowski says she hates the term “WAGs,” which is an unflattering term used to describe the partners of footballers (“wives and girlfriends”) in England, because it “puts them in a drawer.”

Victoria Beckham created a distorted image

The term became established at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, when the dazzling and hard-drinking WAGs of the English national players, including David Beckham’s wife Victoria, occupied the tabloid press for weeks.

From Tarkowski and Gündogan’s perspective, the aftereffects can still be felt today. Tarkowski criticizes that everyone has the wrong image in mind that WAGs lead glamorous and carefree lives where they drink champagne all the time and focus on material things.

As the wife of a footballer, you are sometimes “on the sidelines,” reports Gündogan. Although she had traveled around the world as a model and TV presenter and spoke six languages, everything was suddenly nothing and she was just “his wife”. She lost her spontaneity and had to find her own identity again. The filming gave her the chance to show a bit of her personality, Gündogan told the tabloid Daily Mail.

In fact, the documentary gives the impression that the WAGs sometimes lead rather hard and, in particular, dependent and lonely lives. Sara Gündogan sets the tone by making it clear that a relationship with a footballer does not allow for a stable and quiet life. It is always suggested to her that she has everything. But in reality she is just with a man who has everything. As a mother she had to sacrifice a lot. And if you put your own career aside, you suddenly have nothing left.

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Neglecting your own calling

The 29-year-old emphasizes that it is actually important for her to stand on her own two feet. After Ilkay’s career, she plans to move back to Italy. She had already told him that she would work and he would look after the children – but Ilkay always laughs about it until now. The professional singer Harding also complains that she has neglected her calling. She quit too long ago and really wants to get back into it. And Ash Turner admits her husband’s priority is football and that’s why she supports his dreams and career goals.

When Taylor Ward found out about her husband Riyad Mahrez’s move to Saudi Arabia, her world collapsed.

Marc Atkins / Getty

Women’s independence suffers from relationships. Although the authors try to highlight them, corresponding scenes can rarely be found. The women are usually shown in relation to their respective husbands – like Harding on her birthday, which she celebrates again without her partner Jorginho, who is currently abroad. She makes herself particularly chic for his return because, as she says, everyone is fighting for his attention. Since it takes time to find friends, especially after moving, you can feel alone from time to time, says Sara Gündogan. The players have a job and are constantly on the move.

The statements put into perspective the still often prevailing attitude that money alone brings happiness. However: At the end of the last episode, Taylor Ward admits that she doesn’t want her life to be any other way. In spite of everything.

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