|Eriksson (top) and Nancy
London, July 25: Not since Pamel(l)a Bordes hit the headlines back in 1989 has an Asian woman found herself in the middle of a sex scandal in such a public fashion.
The Football Association today had to make the embarrassing admission — an “own goal”, some papers are calling it — that one of its secretaries, Faria Alam, 38, has been having an affair with Sven-Goran Eriksson, the 56-year-old Swedish-born England coach.
The FA had earlier backed up Alam’s claim that there had been no such affair and threatened newspapers which repeated the story with legal action.
On Monday last week, Alam issued an emphatic denial, in which she said: “I have been shocked by these untrue allegations. I can’t imagine how anybody could accuse me of being involved with him. I am taking legal advice.”
Now, it appears that Alam also had “an extremely brief relationship” with Mark Palios, the FA chief executive. It was Palios who persuaded Eriksson to stay as England coach until 2008 and reject promises of greater riches which were apparently being offered by the English football club Chelsea.
Today’s News of the World discloses that Eriksson and Palios, effectively his boss at the FA, shared rather more than a common passion for football.
Normally speaking, the personal lives of footballers and the senior executives who are paid millions to run the game would be of little interest to the wider public but in contemporary Britain the top players and coaches are treated like celebrities. Many live up to the reputations thrust on them by trying to behave as badly as possible.
Eriksson’s partner, Nancy Dell’Olio, a flamboyant Italian who has also convinced herself she is an important personality, appeared on a TV chat show recently and claimed she and her lover kept fit through a regime of energetic sex.
According to today’s News of the World, her disclosure is right except for a minor detail. Eriksson’s energetic sex was not with her but with Alam.
Dell’Olio is not pleased — at 45, she is seven years older than Alam — and has thrown Eriksson out from the house they shared. Some reports suggest this is exactly what Eriksson wanted.
In 1992, the former Miss India Pamela Singh — she changed her first name to Pamella and acquired Bordes as a surname after marriage to a Frenchman — was revealed as a £500-a-night prostitute who had managed to get a House of Commons pass as a “researcher”. Readers were less interested in her than the long list of important men who had squabbled over her.
Similarly, Alam will now find life uncomfortable in the extreme as tabloids rake over her past and offer her large sums to tell her side of “my nights of passion with Sven”.
Lawyers acting on behalf of the FA had earlier said: “Ms Alam comes from a conservative family background.”
This is code for pointing out that Alam comes from an Asian Muslim background and her family would be distraught to read allegations of sexual impropriety. Of course, the FA at the time had not known what it does now.
Bordes was persuaded to sell her story to the Daily Mail for £250,000 but the paper watered down her account because it could not separate fact from fiction. Alam may not want to talk at this stage but if she is sacked by the FA — not for having an affair but for telling fibs to her employers — she, too, may ultimately be forced to take tabloid money (especially if Eriksson dumps her).
At first, lawyers acting on behalf of Alam and the FA warned the News of the World: “We are instructed that there is no truth whatsoever in the suggestion that our client and Mr Eriksson are having, or have had, a sexual relationship.”
The latest statement is an about-turn: “Earlier in the week the Football Association made statements on behalf of Faria Alam, denying that she has a sexual relationship with the England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson. New evidence has been presented to us in the form of emails which Ms Alam has sent to friends about the relationship and, having made further inquiries, we can confirm that a relationship did take place.”
A further statement added: “With regard to the chief executive Mark Palios, we believe this is a private matter, but we have seen evidence from emails sent by Ms Alam, and having made further inquiries, we can confirm an extremely brief relationship did take place.”
Alam’s affair with Eriksson has been rumbled because she emailed a friend about how well it was all going — and the News of the World appears to have got hold of the emails from the “friend”.
Not much is known about Alam’s background — yet. But she is supposed to a former model and the paper has run a fetching catwalk picture of her in a green sari.
Alam and Eriksson met “as far back as September” — a week, it has to be remembered, is a long time in the romantic world of football — blossomed over Christmas and “was still going strong earlier this month”.
Observers have noted that Eriksson made frequent use of his mobile telephone during Euro 2004 — some of his calls, it has been claimed, were to Alam..
It is possible that England football fans will now blame Alam for distracting their coach during the critical days of Euro 2004 when their side was ousted by Portugal.