This time, it wasn’t a flirtation with the directors of Manchester United, the owner of Chelsea FC, or British TV-personality Ulrika Jonsson that had got Svennis, as he’s known in Sweden, into trouble. No: he’d reportedly had an affair with his boss’s secretary, tried to conceal the whole thing from his employers and then lied about it.
Well, that’s what the English Football Association said.
Initially Aftonbladet took the revelation that Eriksson had conducted an affair with 38 year-old former-model Faria Alam, a secretary at the FA, as an opportunity to slam British tabloid culture. Right from the first whistle on Monday, they were on the offensive, calling the Daily Mail’s Jeff Powell “A Svennis hater.”
But in practically the same breath the paper was worrying that Sven, one of the most well-known Swedes in international sport, might lose his job. Expressen feared the same, quickly assuring concerned readers that if the worst came to the worst, “the FA will have to pay out millions of pounds to Svennis in compensation”.
As the week went on and the British media collectively decided that Eriksson’s mind had been on anything but football during Euro 2004, the Swedes were quick to predict that “Sven’s days are numbered”.
Aftonbladet, typically, went a step further, developing a nasty case of the Mulder & Scullies, and complained: “It’s all a conspiracy against the Swede. Where are Sven’s supporters in the British media? Someone’s surely silencing them.”
Then things turned ugly. On Thursday Aftonbladet and Expressen accused the frenzied British media of hounding Eriksson.
“Surely he’s entitled to be left alone on his vacation,” said Expressen.
“His private life is his own business,” said Aftonbladet, right under a rather intrusive picture of their own showing a bare-chested, suntanned Eriksson, phone clasped to his ear, standing on the steps of his country retreat just outside Sunne. “It’s just because [the English] are unhappy with how their team performed at Euro 2004 that they want to get rid of him.”
With a showdown meeting timetabled for August 5 with the FA’s board of directors, which DN is likening to former US president Bill Clinton’s summons to explain his office fling with Monica Lewinsky, Eriksson will have to account for his conduct. Moreover, it certainly looks as if Eriksson’s tenure of the England job is under threat.
And the Swedish press has already made its mind up about the likely outcome.
“Everyone wants Eriksson to go,” said Aftonbladet. “No one survives a collective attack from the British press.”
Wednesday’s Expressen appeared even more certain, with a headline that read; “FA Decides: Svennis Must Go”. The trouble was, their source was The Sun, not exactly Britain’s most trustworthy tabloid when it comes to this sort of thing.
In spite of this week’s revelations, Eriksson’s private life and conduct as England’s manager seems to have hardly altered his standing amongst the Swedish public, if the reaction of Expressen and Aftonbladet readers are anything to go by.
“Come back to Torsby and coach a Swedish team,” wrote one. “Without a doubt [he’s] Sweden’s finest ambassador for sport,” wrote another.
Whatever the outcome of next week’s FA board meeting, let’s hope Sven-Göran Eriksson keeps his eye on the ball from now on. As a leading football coach, he should let his team do the talking. Not his appetite for women.