Feature: African wives and girlfriends at the 2014 World Cup
By Firdose Moonda, ESPN
Last week Ghana’s Black Stars received news that their World Cup budget had been more than halved from what they had at their disposal four years ago because of a public outcry about the country’s expenditures.
This week the team’s psychologist, Professor Joseph Mintah, asked the FA to consider allowing the players’ significant others to travel with the squad to Brazil, something that is certain to cost extra money. (The GFA has denied that there was such a proposal)
If Mintah’s recommendation is followed, the WAGS (Wives and Girlfriends) will stay at a nearby hotel — as is often the case when footballers’ wives are on the road — and meeting their spouses would be scheduled according to a timetable. The up-side for the FA is that Mintah suggested the players bear the cost of their sweethearts’ travel themselves.
Ghana’s footballers will not be receiving bonuses as big as they may have hoped so there’s a chance some of them may not want to fork out anything extra, but Mintah believes it will be worth the expense.
He cited research which shows that when people are separated from their families for longer than 21 days, they become agitated.
By implication, if the WAGS are around, Ghana will have less reason to worry about their players’ state of mind.
“If we allow the players to send their wives and fiancees to the World Cup, it will grant them adequate concentration for the assignment at hand because they will no longer think about home,” Mintah said, according to MTNfootball.com. But he issued a warning too. “This must be done with lot of caution especially when dealing with the unmarried ones.”
The last part of that comment will take some by surprise but it serves to illustrate the conservative attitudes that continue to dominate in some countries. Unlike places like England, where national team manager Roy Hodgson has already said that WAGS are welcomed at both the team’s training camp and the tournament, where girlfriends are considered no different to those with rings on their fingers, in Africa the attitude is much different.
Nigeria’s Stephen Keshi has okayed the travel of wives, even going as far as to call it civilised, but drew the line at girlfriends. “In any civilised country, wives are allowed to accompany their husbands to the World Cup,” he said at a Tom Tom roundtable discussion. “But there will be no room for girlfriends.”
There is no news coming out of the other three African camps about their plan for players’ partners during the tournament, but it is likely that financial considerations will dictate whether they are accompanied by them or not. And if Ghana thought their FA was pulling too tightly on the purse strings they can take comfort from knowing that the Ivory Coast’s budget is little more than half of theirs.
US$5.4 million has been set aside for the Elephants’ trip to cover their transport, hotel bills and bonuses. The bonus amounts have remained the same as what they were in both 2006 and 2010.
That amount also includes US$1.2 million for the matches Ivory Coast have already won to qualify for the tournament, which will be paid before they leave for Brazil. In addition to that, each member of the 23-man squad will receive US$104,000 for their participation in the World Cup.
They could top that up by US$35,000 if they qualify for the round of 16, US$42,000 if they make the last eight, US$69,000 for the semi-finals and US$135,000 if they qualify for the final.
The money mentioned may persuade some players to accept the cost of their WAGS making the trip, but astoundingly, Ivory Coast have made provisions for a 65-person delegation. Some of the players may be hopeful their partners are among that list.