The acronym WAGs (Wives & Girlfriends) may not be enticing in Singapore or Malaysia as it continues to scream the global football headlines, particularly in Europe. WAGs (or Wags) is an acronym used to refer to Wives And Girlfriends of Sports Stars.
The term was first used by the British tabloid press to refer to the wives and girlfriends of high-profile footballers, originally the England national football team. It came into common use during the 2006 FIFA World Cup, although the term had been used occasionally before that. The acronym has since been used by the media in other countries to describe the female partners of sportspeople in general.
From the “Kallang Roar” era of the mid-1970s, at the prime heights of Singapore football, where 60,000 bola-crazy fans swarmed the National Stadium, the playmakers on the pitch were also dashing personalities, such as Mohamed Noh Hussein, S. Rajagopal, Quah Kim Song, (the late) Dollah Kassim, Arshad Khamis, Samad Allapitchay, M. Kumar, Haslir Ibrahim, Seak Poh Leong and Eric Paine who wowed with their celebrity-like status.
The Made-in-Singapore WAGs?
We always see the performances of football players on the pitch, but we never know what happens behind the scenes. One thing is certain: These great footballers receive great support from their wives and are more important than we could imagine. They prepare the meals, make the footballers feel at ease and console their husbands after a bad game or loss. Mental support is an important aspect in every relationship.
And memories of WAGs came to mind when I hosted a Thursday lunch for the visiting Mil Khamis, wife of Malaysia Cup striker-hero of the 1970s, Arshad Khamis. The couple migrated to Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada in 1992 to seek greener career and lifestyle pastures.
As a young journalist, covering the rip-roaring Malaysia Cup beat, I remember the WAGs from that glamourous era, close to four decades ago. Mil Khamis (Arshad Khamis), Carol Batchelor-Kumar (M. Kumar), Faridah Syed Anuar (the late Dollah Kassim), Sharifah Aljunied (Samad Alapitchay), (the late) Shirley David (Quah Kim Song) and Nellie Lee (David Lee). In the 1990-era, prominently came South African model Wendy Jacobs (Fandi Ahmad), who has five teenagers.
“Yes, we sometimes became the news because we were there to support our football hubbies,” says receptionist Carol Batchelor, who married Malaysia Cup midfield hero Muniandy Kumar in September 1976.
“Remember : Behind every good man is a great woman. We’ve all heard the phrase before. Those who don’t believe it are probably single and wishing they had the love and support of a good woman. Those who do, well, they know it’s true.”
Mil Khamis, looking graciously sporting in her modest traditional tudung despite migration to Canada 25 years ago, says that the Singapore-styled WAGs did not “seek out publicity”.
She adds: “Some have graced the red carpet or the catwalk, some have opted to stay out of the spotlight and live their lives in private like any other person. But like the rest of us, we’re mostly there for the men, and like men of all ages and classes, when you have a job that is as tough as playing at the height of the Malaysia Cup “Kallang Roar”, it helps to have a strong support system at home.
MOST CELEBRATED WAG
Perhaps the most celebrated Wag-couple, the Singapore version of the David Beckhams, was charming striker Mohamed Noh Hussein, also known as Singapore’s ‘Allan Clarke’ and Rahimah Rahim, a gorgeous celebrity-singer, who were successful in their own right.
Rahimah, who released 12 albums, is the daughter of (the late) Rahim Hamid, a singer from the 1950s, and Mariam Baharom, an actress. Her uncle is singer Ahmad Daud,and she started acting at the age of six. And as a child, she would perform with her father on television and in nightclubs. She performed in the television show Pak Awang Temberang (Mr Awang Temberang) in the 1960s. She also had film roles as a child in Masuk Angin Keluar Asap and Kasih Ibu.
She released her first album, entitled Mana Ibumu (Where has your mother gone?) in 1972, when she was 17. Her singing career took off in 1974 when she was the group champion and the grand champion in Kim Koso Talentime in Japan. She has since represented Singapore in the Asean Song Festival and in the Golden Bell Awards in Taiwan. Rahimah has sung in Malay, Indonesian, English, and Japanese.
Carol Batchelor-Kumar recalls: “Rahimah and Mat Noh were a very special football celebrity couple as they made the media headlines in their own ways. Majority of us, as wives of football heroes, simply followed the shadows of our husbands to offer morale support when they played the big matches.”
Special occasions were also celebrated in glittery style, too. I remember the late Dollah “Gelek King” Kassim and Faridah Anuar, for example, had their 30th wedding anniversary in July 2007 at the Plaza Ballroom with close to 50 family members, where they were greeted by applause, whoops, cheers and the kompang beats in the background. Truly celebrity WAG-style.
End of the day, the WAGs always performed in their own discreet ways to inspire their partners to greater heights. Indeed, we never know what really happens behind the scenes.
As adoring Singapore football fan Juriah Rahim, 44, a schoolteacher, says: “The Singapore-made WAGs must be complimented. The great footballers, or other sporting personalities, truly received great support from their wives and are more important than we could imagine. The mental support is a very important aspect in every relationship. – SURESH NAIR.
- Suresh Nair is a Singapore-based journalist who covered the WAGs as a young writer from the 1970s and have forged excellent friendships with many of them.