Football, fornication and fiftysomethings

It is possible Eriksson actually feels media intrusion has done him more good than harm
Click to follow
The Independent Online

The romantic adventures of the England football manager, Sven Goran Eriksson, have again unleashed thousands of column inches, if I might use imperial measurement of a man so utterly, rigorously metric. It is mightily ironic, too, that the private life of a fellow whose public utterances make the speaking clock sound thrilling, has added so much to the gaiety of the nation. Had Mr Eriksson's teams achieved on the field of play anything like the success he has had in titillating the tabloids, England would by now be world and European champions, instead of international also-rans.

The romantic adventures of the England football manager, Sven Goran Eriksson, have again unleashed thousands of column inches, if I might use imperial measurement of a man so utterly, rigorously metric. It is mightily ironic, too, that the private life of a fellow whose public utterances make the speaking clock sound thrilling, has added so much to the gaiety of the nation. Had Mr Eriksson's teams achieved on the field of play anything like the success he has had in titillating the tabloids, England would by now be world and European champions, instead of international also-rans.

The England football manager's private life is, of course, an oxymoron. He doesn't have one. I was once told by a successful club manager, whose name had been associated with the England job shortly before it was given to Mr Eriksson, that he would never have contemplated taking it, even had it been offered. I asked him why, expecting to hear his considered reflections on the frustrations of international management for a man who enjoyed daily involvement with his players. "Off the record," he said, "because I like a bird, and I like a pint."

Mr Eriksson's drinking habits have not yet been pored over by the media, and one doubts whether he refers to women as "birds", but otherwise that club manager's concerns have been fully vindicated. The Swede's libido has been the source of much entertainment, from the dalliance with his compatriot Ulrika Jonsson - and the intriguing detail that he left his shoes, with their stacked-up heels, outside the bedroom door - to the latest revelation that he pursued a sexual relationship with Faria Alam, a secretary at the Football Association, who had also had an affair with Mr Eriksson's boss, the FA's 51-year-old chief executive Mark Palios.

The FA, having first denied reports of Ms Alam's affair with Mr Eriksson, at the weekend issued a statement confirming it, while also conceding that "an extremely brief relationship" had taken place between Ms Alam and Mr Palios. This rather begged the question: how brief is extremely brief? After all, it took Boris Becker only two minutes in a broom cupboard to father a child and wreck a marriage.

It could reasonably be argued, and frequently is argued, that none of this is any of our business, that all we have a right to know about, where Mr Eriksson is concerned, is his thinking about midfield diamond formations and the like. Such a view is as pious as it is naive. The way of the world now, rightly or wrongly, is that people in jobs which attract close public scrutiny can expect the same level of scrutiny in other chambers of their lives. Even, perhaps especially, the bedchamber. They know that's part of the deal, that in taking a high-profile appointment in Britain they are about to embark on a handsomely-paid tango with the devil, that the long lenses of the paparazzi are everywhere. It is up to them to exercise more care in how they carry on. Unless, of course, it suits them to be rumbled.

For Mr Eriksson, one of those long lenses caught him emerging not from a tryst with a woman, but with a man, when he was pictured emerging from a meeting with Peter Kenyon, the chief executive of Chelsea FC. The net result of that encounter was a massive hike to an already fabulous salary, endorsed by Mr Palios, who did not want to lose Mr Eriksson to Chelsea.

So it is possible that Mr Eriksson, while outwardly complaining about the level of media intrusion into his life, actually feels that it has done him more good than harm. And that possibly applies, too, to his growing reputation as a lothario. Not all 54-year-old men would be entirely horrified for details to leak into the public arena of an affair with the comely Ulrika Jonsson, and later with an attractive 38-year-old secretary. Especially men with a reputation for being somewhat on the staid and dreary side.

But that is not to suggest that Mr Eriksson has in any way orchestrated these revelations. After all, they have seemingly earnt him the enmity of his ex-girlfriend Nancy Dell'Olio, and one look at Ms Dell'Olio is enough to tell us that hers is an enmity no sane man would ever want to court.

The same look at Ms Dell'Olio is also enough to tell us that she adores being in the public eye, even - or again, perhaps especially - as the wronged partner. She has reportedly said to friends that, with her relationship with Mr Eriksson apparently over, she now wishes to be treated as a celebrity "in her own right". There is no greater indictment of our celebrity-obsessed culture than the extreme likelihood of her getting her wish. Still, it should be fun to watch her glossing those lips in the Australian jungle.

In the meantime, those who find themselves thoroughly depressed by the way the three Fs - football, fornication and fiftysomethings - are dominating the headlines should draw some consolation from the thought that Britain is still a world-beater in some areas. Mr Eriksson has conspicuously failed to plot the England football team's passage even into the last four of a major championship, but he has, whether wittingly or unwittingly, helped to emphasise our supremacy as a people preoccupied by the sexual liaisons of the rich and famous. For that alone, he deserves our respect, and another few million quid.

b.viner@independent.co.uk

Comments