The wives and girlfriends (or Wags as they are referred to in the press) are a welcome distraction from the trials and tribulations of the beautiful game for the modern day footballer. But with a renewed focus on every aspect of a players life by the world’s media, their lives off the pitch are under the spotlight as much as what they do on it. Magazines and websites devote numerous column inches to highlighting various footballer’s partners to such an extent that they have now become a cultural phenomenon all on their own (the irony that we are writing about this has not been lost). Their actions and their lifestyles are judged daily, and they are constantly under the glare of the media, often with too much scrutiny. The world’s obsession with celebrity culture has migrated over to sports in the past fifteen years or so, with football taking much of the attention due to the high salaries and glamorous lifestyles.
This week a Norwegian player’s wife is facing a barrage of abuse online after posting a ‘selfie’ on her Instagram page. The picture shows 26 year old Caroline Berg Eriksen, wife of Norwegian Premier League player Lars-Kristian Eriksen, standing in front of a mirror taking a photo of herself in lingerie, showing her toned midriff and slim figure, only a few days after giving birth. Her photo has sparked an outrage on the Internet with many criticizing Eriksen for creating a false impression of what a woman’s body looks like after child birth. These critics claim she is sending the wrong message to women and young girls around the world. Caroline Berg Eriksen runs the popular “Soccer Lady” website, which features regular posts about her life and the various events that go hand in hand with being a soccer player’s wife. Some of these posts include her wedding to Lars in 2010, fitness routines and her pregnancy. A self-proclaimed fitness enthusiast, Eriksen works out regularly (5-6 times per week) and cites on her blog that “a day without exercise is a day without meaning”. She also eats a low-carb diet in order to stay healthy and lean. During her pregnancy, Eriksen recorded her daily fitness routines on her website and periodically posted images of herself in the various stages of development. In all the pictures, she appears to be physically lean and fit throughout her entire pregnancy.
The couple, who welcomed a daughter, Nelia, to the world on November 25th, have been shocked by the reaction the image has generated. Lars-Kristian Eriksen has jumped to his wife’s defense and issued a response on his own Facebook page stating:
“Who is it that creates body pressure? The one who posts selfie in lingerie because she is proud of herself, or those discussing on the Internet how a woman’s body should look like after birth?”
While the image may be perceived to send the wrong message – setting unrealistic expectations for young women – the backlash on Caroline Berg Eriksen has been somewhat unfair. Everyone is entitled to their opinion; however some posts have included vulgar and cruel comments towards Erikson. These harsh remarks have been fueled by the media’s desperation and need to exploit people for news and gossip for their own gain. Granted, the image does not help many women’s confidence in their own post-natal bodies, as many women cannot exercise 5-6 times a week, they do not have access to a personal trainer or they cannot afford a high cost diet. But to attack Eriksen in this cruel way has not been the answer. When Heidi Klum posted similar pictures only weeks after giving birth, the backlash was minimal and relatively positive, with very few negative or cruel comments. So why is it different for Eriksen?