Rowan Pelling: Oh, Faria, remember sad Antonia

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The Independent Online

Usually, I think no act of immorality crawls as low on its serpent's belly as the kiss-and-tell exposé, but I have to say that in the case of Faria Alam, Sven Goran Eriksson's lover, I make a rare exception. First and most importantly, she is not wreaking havoc on a wounded wife and family. Yes, there is Nancy, but she's the kind of broad who knew the cut of her man's straying jib and can stand up for herself. Second, this is less Alam's choice than a blind alley down which the FA and the press have hounded her, while all the while Max Clifford stood waving a cheque book at the end.

Hell hath no fury like a woman whose private emails were offered to the News of the World by her chauvinist pig bosses. And you have to despise the sort of men who clearly hired the beauteous Alam in the manifest, drooling hope that she would stroke their, ahem, egos, and then express horror when she is duly generous with her favours. Feverish flirtation and the odd dinner à deux are clearly as much a secretarial perk at the FA as copious supplies of Tippex. Why she then went on to bed a couple of these silver suits is a complex mystery known only to Alam, but I suspect it had something to do with the heady brew of power, pizza, ennui and the fact that an ageing man's abject gratitude can prove a subtle aphrodisiac.

But I wonder if Alam will survive the media trap that's been fashioned for her? Cash and instant celebrity have their own transient compensations, but a year or a decade down the line, who will hire free-kicks Faria?

I cannot look at Alam without thinking of Antonia de Sancha: a name that now summons nightmarish thoughts of David Mellor in flagrante delicto in a Chelsea strip. Who remembers a promising Rada graduate with an abrasive wit and epic talent for mayhem? I do, because I first met Antonia some months before the Mellor scandal broke, as she was a mate of my friend, journalist Paul Halloran. And I was there when Paul introduced Antonia to his other mate, Mellor, over dinner in a King's Road brasserie. I watched in fascination as the fish-mouthed and fleshy Mellor strove to impress Antonia while she batted back actressy protestations of admiration at the "importance" of his political work. By the end of the evening, they were serenading each other with songs from South Pacific.

I got the impression that for Antonia it was a game, an exercise in seduction (she once told me that she liked sleeping with ugly men because there could be a powerful beauty and beast chemistry), while for Mellor it was a career-busting passion. Neither party set out to bring the other one down, but that was the net result. Antonia told a few friends in strictest confidence, as you do; the friends were less than discreet, as they are. The tabloid hacks closed in and said her name would be mud with or without her assistance - and so it was - therefore she might as well take the well-paid route. And there was Uncle Max with his broken umbrella to shelter under.

Shortly after the tabloid splurge, I attended a media event where Clifford arrived with Antonia on his arm. Whereas at one time scores of men would've queued to flirt with the leggy de Sancha (a woman far more attractive in the flesh than in photographs), that evening no one would talk to her but me. Did she regret her Faustian pact? Almost certainly and very quickly. Is she still in contact with Clifford? No. Has the money run out? Yes.

I still see Antonia from time to time and recently she wrote some very funny agony aunt columns for The Erotic Review, but the legacy of Mellorgate meant that her acting career was effectively sunk. Meanwhile Mellor steamrolls on from media gig to gig, even deigning with magisterial hypocrisy to give his view on the FA balls-up. Palios, Gibson & Co will likewise move swiftly from pay-off to golden handshake to monumental pension. But will that nice Trevor McDonald and his TV chums be talking to Faria Alam one year from now? I rather doubt it.